Never heard of the play “Feathers and Teeth?” You’re not alone. Russ Wooley hadn’t either until he saw the show at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. But after he saw how fun and imaginative it was, Wooley was inspired to direct a production of “Feathers and Teeth” at Lamb Theatre.
Wooley actually met with the show’s playwright, Charise Castro Smith, after the Chicago show. “I really, really enjoyed your show,” Wooley said, “and I would love to produce it at my theater.”
Castro Smith put Wooley in touch with her agent, who was able to loan the rights to the play to Lamb Theatre.
Wooley describes “Feathers and Teeth” as a horror-thriller-comedy reminiscent of ’70s and ’80s horror movies, where much of the blood and gore was supplemented with a great deal of dark humor.
The story develops around a small “picture-perfect” family that turns out to be anything but. A daughter is not coping well after the death of her mother and insists on making things difficult for her dad’s new girlfriend. Speaking of Dad, he just ran over something with his car. What exactly did he run over? Well, he’s not quite sure. No one is. And it’s about to cause more problems for this family.
The father takes what's left of the creature and puts it into a cast iron pot.
“There are noises coming from the pot,” said Wooley. “They look at it and go, ‘What is this thing? It has feathers and… is that teeth?’”
The play takes place in a 1978-style kitchen, giving “Feathers and Teeth” an odd, sitcom-like atmosphere. On stage right is the interior of a crawl space underneath the kitchen, serving as the second set. Stage left is reserved for the Foley artist, Lisa Wipperling.
A Foley artist is someone who reproduces everyday sound effects with various available items. In film and TV, a Foley artist would implement these sounds in post-production in order to intensify or augment the action on screen. In “Feathers and Teeth,” a Foley artist creates the sound effects live in front of the audience.
“Foley artists have been with us since radio days,” said Wooley. “You don’t ever see that in the theater. She’s over there making noises and sounds. She sees the action and goes right along with it. It’s a very dynamic and fun element in the show.”
The technique is a remnant from the time Wooley first saw the show in Chicago. It, too, used a Foley artist.
“Feathers and Teeth” opened Lamb Theatre’s 37th season last weekend. Having indie plays kick off the local theater’s new season is nothing new for the folks at Lamb.
Last year, Lamb Theatre opened with “Monster Makers,” a world premiere show about three famous Hollywood figures responsible for some of the most iconic silver screen monsters ever conceived.
“I put my seasons together carefully to go from new things to classic things to lighter things to drama -- it has to feel right,” said Wooley. “This felt right.”
In addition to experiencing “good theater,” Wooley enjoys watching horror movies, an activity which his wife Diana Wooley doesn’t care for. Wooley noted that more than once he’s had to go to a horror movie by himself because of her aversion to the genre.
“However, the night that we saw [“Feathers and Teeth”], afterwards I turned to her and said, 'Oh, I love this show. I want to produce it.' And she said, ‘So. Did. I. I love this show. We have to do it.’”
It just felt right.