It's Alfred Hitchcock as you've never seen him before: outrageous, hilarious and full of cross-dressing.
"The Birds Attack," a very loosely based parody of Hitchcock's classic 1963 horror film "The Birds," swept into the Buffalo United Artists Theater last weekend, where it will stay until Aug. 28.
The avian ambience began at the very entrance -- 3-D paper birds hung pinned to curtains and perched on the ticket desks as bird calls echoed out of speakers. And that was only the beginning of the delightfully over-the-top production, which Jimmy Janowski both wrote and stars in.
The story followed the basic plot of "The Birds." A socialite named Melanie, played gloriously by Janowski, encounters Mitch (Eric Rawski) at a pet shop. She surprises him with a visit to Bodega Bay where his sister, Kathy (Timothy Finnegan), and his mother, Lydia (Chris Stoddard), live. As the visit progresses, the feathered residents of the bay start acting strangely, eventually culminating in vicious, mass-scale attacks.
The plot, however, is about the only thing "Attack" has in common with its predecessor. It caricatures the original film in comical, raunchy fashion, hardly a moment going by where a sexual innuendo, double entendre or dirty joke isn't flying through the air. I don't know if you could say it's all in good taste, but it's definitely in good fun.
With the parts all played by men, cracks about dressing in drag and sexuality also get plenty of the spotlight. At one point, Janowski as Melanie is talking about traveling abroad. "Well you're certainly not a broad now," Rawski replies. In another scene, Michael Blasdell, playing Annie Hayworth, Mitch's ex-lover and Kathy's teacher, tells Melanie she's wasting her time if she's selling make-up, because "I don't wear the stuff," batting her mascara-caked eyelashes at the audience.
Props were minimal, with a telephone, a glass of brandy and some chairs sometimes the only objects onstage. Even the bird attacks were almost beside the point, with birds portrayed by screen projections, handfuls of feathers or actors decked out with bird masks, wings and anything from leather jackets to Spandex to boxer briefs.
The limelight here was on the lead actors, and oh, did they earn it. Janowski was divine, hamming up the lead role, played in the movie by Tippi Hedren, with perfectly exaggerated expressions and reactions. Blasdell also shone with his sassy, vixenish Annie, one of the funniest characters in the show, and that's saying something. Finnegan played Kathy hilariously, like an unkempt, bizarre little drunk. The frequent recipient of other characters' uncomfortable, disgusted glances, he served as comic relief in a play that hardly needed any.
With a boat named the S.S. Hitchcock and Kathy's school named the Tippi Hedren School of Performing Arts, the play gave small homages to the original film, all delivered with self-aware eye-rolls toward the audience. Another great moment occurred with the schoolroom scene, where Janowski turned the audience into the students and Blasdell called select audience members out by name for not singing along with the song on the blackboard.
"Attack" is a fun, irreverent romp through one of the most famous horror movies in film history. I don't know if Hitchcock would have been amused, but audiences certainly will be.
WHAT: "The Birds Attack"
Review: 3 1/2 stars (Out of 4)
WHEN: Through Aug. 28
WHERE: Buffalo United Artists, 119 Chippewa St.
INFO: 886-9239, www.buffalobua.org