As characters go, few, if any, are more inscrutable and obnoxious than the 13-year-old girl. Thus, it is difficult at first to sympathize with Chris (Agatha Day Olson) in Artists Repertory Theatre’s new production Feathers and Teeth by Charise Castro Smith, directed by Artists Rep Artistic Director Damaso Rodriguez.
Not so far into the play, however, one’s allegiances start to shift. Chris only recently has lost her mother Ellie to cancer. The two were close. And then, her dad, Arthur (Darius Pierce), great dolt that he is, let his girlfriend Carol (Sara Hennessy) move in with them. Even more insulting, Carol was Ellie’s end-of-life nurse, and she acts like she wants to be besties with Chris. Not smart, Carol.
So there you have it. A family drama’s drama. But then there is that thing in the pot.
When Arthur runs over a creature in the driveway, he dashes into the house covered with blood, grabs Carol’s special cooking pot, runs out of the house, and throws a half-dead creature with “feathers and teeth” into the pot. Later he buries it the garden. In a fit of pique, Chris digs it up, brings the pot and its contents into the house, and stuffs it under the dining table. And then…and then the noises start. Something or things seems to be alive in the pot. Chris’s friend Hugo (Damaso J. Rodriguez) comes over from next door, and the two decide to hide the pot in the crawl space.
Without getting into too much detail, I can tell you without reservation that Feathers and Teeth is a full-blown horror story filled with melodrama, frightening creatures, black comedy, and a plethora of blood. It’s also a mystery. In her crazed grief, Chris believes horrible things about Carol. Things that may even be true.
And it’s a portrait of a young teen’s grief in all its strange and bewildering manifestations. Agatha Olson renders a convincing performance as a confused girl beside herself with grief-turned-seething anger. Nelda Reyes provides voices for the monsters. Costume Designer Sarah Gahagan outdid herself with Carol’s opening scene vintage dress; the 1970s kitchen designed by Megan Wilkerson is a thing of beauty.
This regional premiere of Feathers and Teeth runs through April 2 at Artists Repertory Theatre. There is enough blood and language to issue a parental advisory warning.