A Wood of Owls
Reviewed by David Kashimba

A Wood of Owls, now playing in Spreckles Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park, is an interesting study of man/woman relationships over a period of 800 years. The first and third act takes place 800 years ago in a time of orthodox religious beliefs juxtaposed with superstition and mythology. The second act is modern day and subtly reveals that men and women really don’t relate that differently today.

Playwright Harry Reid was partially inspired to write A Wood of Owls when he read Marilyn French’s Shakespeare’s Women. French explores the real life role “women play as ‘outlaw,’ sexually and emotionally private; against whom man must resort to custom, taboo, rule, code, i.e., orthodoxy – such as an exclusive male priesthood; women separated from men in temple; thickly veiled in Moslem cultures; and other ways, some not so subtle, to keep women in line,” Reid said.

Mark Friedrich plays a tinker in the parts of the play that take place 800 years ago and a man named Harry in the modern day second act. Mary Gannon plays a woman of the wood who the tinker refers to as Thrush and Harry’s soon to be ex-wife Sylvia. The first act has an intriguing innocence about it where a tinker meets a mysterious woodland creature. Fascinated by the woodland creature’s oneness with nature, he’s not sure if she’s a woman or some mythological Pan-like creature, but since he has no experience controlling mythological creatures, he treats her like a woman and she complies, following him to the edge of the wood.

In the modern day second act, Harry and Sylvia are going through a divorce. Harry, trying his best to control the situation, has his lawyer draw up divorce papers. But Sylvia will have none of it. Everything Harry thinks makes sense is turned upside-down by Sylvia.

This powerful drama, of man and woman’s eternal struggle to understand each other, is made richer by the mythological foundation that it’s based on and by a subtle line of comic irony that has a way of walloping you over the head with laughter when you least expect it. Or as Reid put it: “If you want to get people to listen to what you have to say, I’ve learned that you don’t preach at them, you make it funny.” So when Sylvia waxes poetically about the meaning of ‘always,’ a gleam suddenly comes into her eye as she thinks of the kinkier meaning of the words ‘all ways’ and how they might apply to sexual relationships.

This is one of the most perfectly balanced plays I’ve ever seen. The writing is pure poetry, the cast top notch and the fact that the play is directed by the playwright’s wife Linda Reid makes it a fulfilling experience on every level. Though the male character in the play is worried about God’s wrath coming down on him because he strayed off God’s path for a woman, the Reids are following the same path with a creative fire that will enlighten everyone that makes the journey to A Wood of Owls.

For tickets call (707) 588-3400.

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