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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

With Two Wings

Or: Light and Airy Fare.

Written by Evanston playwright and teacher Anne Negrit, With Two Wings bares us to a strange and wondrous world where humans are born with wings and takes flying lessons along with reading, writing, and arithmetic. Adapting a great deal from the Icarus myth the story follows Lyf (Hannah Shapiro) a “fledgling” holed up in a cozy nest in the woods with his Mother (Julie Busch) and Father (Dominic Mugavero), where his is safe and loved but never allowed to venture out of the nest or, literally, tests his wings. One day Meta (Erin Holliday) a gregarious fledgling stumbles across Lyf’s home and begins instructing him on the lessons of the wide world. She is followed by her twin Taur (Andrew Lee) who apes being an investigative journalist and wants to uncover the secret of why Lyf is raised in the woods, a secret Lyf’s parents are bent on keeping.

Negrit presents us with a world full of strange surprises, baring us aloft on a current of sweet adventure. If sometimes its wingbeats are ragged because we don’t understand all the rules of her world, our ignorance never bogs us down, and if sometimes we hit a squall of cruelty (for it seems even winged humans delight in finding fault and making mockery) it just adds extra boost to our interest; even children's drama is nothing without dangerous stakes. Director Nikki Rosengren has knit a physical whimsicality to the world, a series of amusing dance breaks and secret handshakes as well as conjuring the power and fragility of flight.

A flock of able designers have turned out to help build this world of hops and skips. The bright, saturating light provided by Stephanie Kahn, the vibrant and visually tactile clothes created by Beatrice Hagney and Bethany Mueller, and the bouncing, tumbling soundtrack cobbled by Grover Holloway bring the world neatly to our fingertips in the style of a better class of saturday morning cartoon. Most magical of these is the shadow puppetry, designed by Emily Baldwin and Tatyana Aravena and executed by Maddie Napel, which paints for us a picture of winged motion that not even the best of movement pieces can.

The cast takes much into the performance from the birds they are joined with. Shapiro hops about brimful with childlike energy and imagination, at once charmingly innocent and comically knowing, Mugavero broods over his young chick, every fiber made of mildness and understanding, and Holiday soars around us cawing and crowing and shaking us all with droplets of joy for the fact of being alive and mobile. One cannot come away from their story without feeling a little dizzy from the swoops and dives in the story but still glad to have tasted the freedom and uninhibited energy of its journey.

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