With “Every Sentence Is For The Birds,” The Moving Company has the bones of a theatrical work aimed at exploring socialization — how we learn our mores, make sense of (and tolerate) these other human animals walking past us each day and how we come to aspire to something larger than ourselves.
The Company gave us a first look at the show Friday night at the Lab Theater in Minneapolis. Even in its undercooked state, the piece offers a serious text in which actor Suzanne Warmanen portrays a scientist reporting on her encounter with a feral human who is found in a heap of peat moss on the forest floor.
Nathan Keepers plays the creature — a legatee of Mowgli, Bat Boy and those many other fictional characters whose greatest teacher is nature, not civilization.
This human lives in his body, not his mind, which gives Keepers an opportunity, under Dominique Serrand’s direction, to exhibit his well-known kinetic facility.
The interaction between “O,” as he comes to be called, and Warmanen’s scientist has a pleasing weirdness to it, even if the trope is familiar. Certain images strike with sharp realism, such as when the scientist sprays off the dust and grime from her subject. Later, Keepers goes on a sneezing jag, channeling his best inner hound dog.
Eventually, though, this acculturation business can wear thin (even at only 75 minutes) if we don’t have a well-defined payoff. The work stretches its own sense of credulity when “O” starts using words like “conscientious” at the same time his oral skills resemble a 5-year-old. At another point we learn that “O” knows a different tongue. Is there a history we are not being told? This hasn’t been integrated into the work’s intentions.
“Every Sentence” seems a meditation on how we grow independent of each other, how we make our own path in the world and whether that singular path is the greatest thing we can accomplish. For in its closing image, we see that love is the greatest marker of civilization — love, which needs others and not just ourselves.