ORLANDO — The Mockingbird News is a highly engaging work by playwright Joseph Reed Hayes. It quickly draws you in, and makes you feel like you’ve been transported to one of those old Beatnik coffee houses of the 1960s, listening to the Beat Generation’s free form poetry.
Poetry as theater, in fact, works exceptionally well in this production performed at this month’s Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, thanks in no small part to the outstanding and immensely entertaining performance by Sarah Lockard.
The Mockingbird News follows one woman’s lifetime, charted over five different angles; we don’t know her name or identity, but it doesn’t much matter. What’s far more important is watching how skillfully Lockard gives us so many different aspects of the same persona, painting for us brief parts of this character’s life, so that each glimpse becomes more enticing,slowly reaching a greaterr appreciation of who this character is.
The Mockingbird News is also fascinating in the way it captures a universal sense of how all of us change in subtly ways over time. Each momentous shift creates new dynamics that alter how we perceive our surroundings, so that we either run from or actively embrace those changes. Lockard asks us to step into her world for short but tempting moments, which are tied to trauma and heartbreak, but also moments of joy and humor.
By the end, we have a much more complete view of the full person, and it was a fascinating journey to get there.
Lockard’s bravura role is aided considerably by the only other person on stage, percussionist Robed Fenelus, who provides a sort of running commentary on Lockard’s dialogue as he performs on his drum set — quietly sometimes, ferociously at others. It’s a stunningly effective way to enhance the mood and feel of this captivating spoken poetry.
The play is also boosted by the creative staging by director Leesa Halstead Castaneda, who takes a single character and artistically establishes a constant rhythm and flow to the production that adds enormously to our appreciation of it.
This was a terrific show about memory and recollection, and where we find ourselves once we begin to look back.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com