The Bird and Mr. Banks Theatre Review - The Hilariously Tragic Tale of Mr. Banks


Sam Anderson and Jenny Kern in The Bird and Mr. Banks

It’s certainly no paradigm of the standard American family- a virginal senior with serial killing tendencies, an illegitimately pregnant Irish woman, and a fledgling bird rescued after a near-death fall from a tree- but it surprisingly works, and works well at that.  The Bird and Mr. Banks is a wildly hilarious, yet somehow truly tragic play that presents a moment in time where such a diverse trio as this comes together in a rather endearing if not bizarre manner.  Presented by The Road Theatre Company , The Bird and Mr. Banks opened Friday and housed large audiences for its opening weekend. 

Mr. Seymour Banks ( ABC Lost’s Sam Anderson) is, at first glance, a seemingly innocuous accountant with little fame beyond his unmatched ability to balance books and his aging notoriety in the accounting world after having received the highest-ever recorded score on the CPA examination.  His true potential, however, is so dramatically unleashed in the company of office temp Annie O’Shaughenssy ( Jenny Kern) after she is dismissed from her job following a pregnancy that results from a torrid affair with her boss, Hartsfield ( Chet Grissom).  Distraught over a fallen bird he has found on his way to work, Banks takes the fledgling to the home of Ms. O’Shaughenssy for a quick Ornithological lesson only to find her near death from attempted suicide.  After a speedy recovery and a quick move into Banks’ home, Ms. O’Shaughenssy finds herself lost in the Norman Batesian world of Mr. Seymour Banks.

From left to right: Chet Grissom, Jenny Kern and Sam Anderson

Yes, this all sounds a bit odd and seemingly too bizarre to be interesting.  The play, however, quickly adapts a style that works and once you find yourself lost in its tantalizing glare, the night passes in the blink of an eye.  

The penmanship dominates the evening- it is intelligent, gritty, unparalleled in content and gives enormous room for play.  Director Mark St. Amant and the design team use this resource with great success and create a resounding world for the curious Mr. Banks.  Desma Murphy’s set design illustrates a clear mastery over the potential limitations of the intimate space.  She takes the set beyond its confines and breaks the borders of the proscenium with the use of a voracious tree.  Complex and detailed in every capacity, this beautiful piece of art immediately sets the tone of this particular staging; instantly we know we are in for something new.  Furthermore a series of panels make transitions from one scene to another, virtually seamless.  The scenes are delicately shaped by Mark St. Amant and then plumply plopped into this illustrious world.  

Sam Anderson finely shapes a tattered, well-intended and gloriously eccentric Mr. Banks.  It is no doubt that he is well-received from scene one and never ceases to captivate attention.  He commands the language of Keith Huff’s script and indulges in the richness of every line.  His performance, moreover, is further enriched through the beautiful work of Jenny Kern.  The duo of Banks and O’Shaughenssy is so delightfully unexpected.  There is something so innately sweet about the love between these two and the unwavering commitment of Mr. Banks to both the safety of Ms. O’Shaughenssy and to the promising future of their love child, the fallen “Peep”.  It is a truly magnificent experience to watch the tête-à-tête of their worlds. 


Sam Anderson as Mr. Banks and Jenny Kern as Ms. O'Shaughenssy

While the technical components of the show needs a bit of polishing- a stage hand could be seen here and there sliding under windows and pushing out cars, and the set shifts included a few dropped props and sticky panels- all the pieces are there for an unparalleled experience.  Furthermore, one more actor would have been great to separate Hartsfield, a central character in setting the groundwork for the events that shape the entire play, from the remaining one-bit roles that are scattered throughout the rest.  

Nevertheless the scores for this production are simply as high as Mr. Banks CPA examination.  It was, indeed, a pleasant surprise.

The Bird and Mr. Banks
opened Friday, January 16, 2009 and will run through May 16, 2009 @:

The Road Theatre
at the Lankershim Arts Center
5108 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA

Friday & Saturday @ 8pm, Sunday at 2pm

For reservations:
call: 866-811-4111

Photos by: Matt Kaiser


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