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Bird Germs

Eric Pfeffinger's new play "Bird Germs" is at the Bloomington Playwrights Project in a very strongly cast, dramatically assured production directed by John Kinzer. It is also very funny, sometimes insightful and occasionally touching.

Now let me answer the question, that I was asking and you may well still be asking. What does the title, "Bird Germs," mean? Well, the title character, Ellen, played with considerable depth of empathy by Meaghan Andrew Wilson, was once terrified by the family's dog bringing home a bird. "Bird germs!" was her cry and it continues to resound in her memory.

Eric Pfeffinger's play takes place largely in Ellen's world. Parts of it are real. Parts of it are partially real. Parts are not real. The men she keeps picking up and then treating badly, all played by the otherwise inoffensive Christopher Mills, are real. Her perky sister, played by tap dancing Emily Cavanagh, is mostly real. Shannon Thake as Ellen's therapist, a rude airline employee, a cop and the oldest living Munchin from the Wizard of Oz is real. Ellen's high school boyfriend Brad, played by Ben Handlesman, isn't totally real, but Handelsman as a cop and as her boss at a Public Television station is really real. Ellen's father, played by Benji Loudermilk, in his variously rigid but sympathetic incarnations as Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin and the father of Laverne from "Laverne and Shirley" isn't real, but for the powerful influence he wields, he might as well be.

In "Bird Germs," parts of Ellen's world are simply in her head. Parts of it are partially real and partially in her head. Her messy apartment room is a mirror of her mind. The play is a journey through experiences and insights with some interesting stops along the way. Ellen does a very funny take on the burdens of Public Television fund drives. She really seems to be a magnet for men whom she treats rather coldly. And she spends a fair amount of time having rather energetic chats with the spirit of her dead father and the grave stone of her dead mother. As she straightens things out her apartment gets reordered along with her psyche. Finally, there is even room to dance a little, clumsily at first, but still to dance. Ellen does leave a few messy corners, but aren't a few of those the simple mark of being human.

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