Slow Falling Bird

A passionate portrayal of life in an immigrant detention center

From Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo's Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom to Yussef El Guindi's Back of the Throat, the treatment of Middle Eastern detainees and refugees following the 9/11 fallout has been a favorite theme on Bay Area stages in recent months. At their best, such plays go beyond regurgitating information presented in the media and by political groups. At their worst, they're just head-bludgeoning, anti-American rants. Christine Evans' Slow Falling Bird is unusual to the extent that it shifts the focus of the "refugee despair" story from the U.S. to Australia in its portrait of the daily lives of guards and Afghan and Iraqi refugees at Woomera Immigration Detention Center in the Australian Outback. A great deal of thought has gone into Crowded Fire Theater Company's world-premiere production of Evans' play. Director Rebecca Novick's visually arresting, dreamlike staging makes the most of the vertical and horizontal planes of Exit on Taylor's black-box space; the production features passionate performances from all nine cast members -- Michael Storm is particularly charismatic as the troubled guard Rick. But despite the myriad talents of the company and the richness of the staging, Slow Falling Bird ultimately feels like an extremely elaborate and overlabored way of conveying what amounts to a very simple message: namely, that life in an immigrant detention camp sucks.

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