Presented by July 19th Productions
Birdseed Confidential is the strangest, most uncomfortable Fringe experience I’ve ever had. Charlene Zacks’ solo show, which she wrote and performs, isn’t quite theatre. It feels like a piece of staged outsider art, coming from a genuine place yet lacking any sense of craft or self-awareness.
This show is inspired by the death of Zacks’ own father. I don’t know how much of the specific content is autobiographical, but the intensely personal nature of the story is obvious. She gives us the character of Gloria, a middled-aged woman reeling from her father’s death.
Every day, she sits on a park bench and chats with some birds. They are her confidantes and she names them. The structure, dialogue and delivery are banal and repetitive. Zacks comes out from the side of the stage, sits on the bench, talks to the birds—though her eyeline drifts up to us—then she rises and walks out. Black out. Repeat.
The same 20 seconds of the same song plays for each scene transition.
Jewish customs and turns-of-phrase figure prominently in her rambling monologue. She recalls, affectionately, many routines with her father. She goes on some bizarre dates. Her words don’t really paint a vivid picture of any of this. Her delivery lacks nuance; it is steady, staccato, awkward.
And yet… you can’t help but feel genuine affection for her. Gloria? Zacks herself? It’s almost impossible to separate the two: the character dealing with a personal tragedy and her real-life counterpart powering through a clumsy performance inspired by it.
There are no metaphors or clever stagecraft. Zacks is guileless. And perhaps that’s what drew my empathy. But yeah, it’s a tough thing to sit through.