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REVIEW: Rough but Poignant Birds Sing Differently Here (Guthrie Theater)

The aftershocks of war came home to the Guthrie Theater last night with the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project’s Birds Sing Differently. This collection of stories is based on the real lives of 12 Iraqi-Minnesotan refugees and immigrants and is performed as part of the Guthrie’s Level Nine Series.

Unusually, this performance is given in both Arabic and English. The cast comprises six Iraqi-Americans drawn from the community and four professional actors; the community members bring great earnestness and sincerity, although there is some clear separation in craft. The program credits Dylan Fresco as the script’s compiler and editor, foregrounding the people whose experiences are recounted. The result is sometimes uneven and frequently roughly hewn, but nevertheless very compelling in its rawness and authenticity.

It is easy to see Birds Sing Differently not making the cut in a theatre’s literary office. With the Iraq Wars sinking into the background of the American psyche and the Islamic State on the decline, the lifetime of such a piece in this country may be counted. This makes it very important that stories like this continue to be told at venues such as the Level Nine Series.

Birds Sing Differently Here plays through October 30 at the Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio in Minneapolis, MN.

Amy Donahue