There’s more than one penguin encounter in town. Diversionary Theatre in University Heights is staging the West Coast premiere of Marc Acito’s one-act play Birds of a Feather, the story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who are given an egg to hatch, and subsequently a chick to raise. It’s based on a true story and on the 2005 children’s book, And Tango Makes Three, that popularized the same-gender penguin parenting and incited many a moralizing conservative. Steve Gunderson and Mike Sears, each a gifted comedic actor strong on physicality, hilariously inhabit the penguin roles without seeming silly. They do double duty as a hetero (the implication is that male parents Roy and Silo are gay) hawk couple, Pale Male and Lola. Gunderson and Sears both indulge a moment as Roy and Silo’s grown chick as well.
Where Birds of a Feather strays is when the focus turns to its four human characters, all played by Rachael VanWormer and Kevin Koppman-Gue. These include network newscaster Paula Zahn, her husband, a zookeeper and a birdwatcher. The charm, wit and innate drama of Acito’s play (he also wrote the book for last year’s potent Allegiance at the Old Globe) resides in those two penguin characters more than in the tribulations (however true) and retrospections of mere humans.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat