'Hummingbird Wars' attacks modern-day adversity

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A new play that brings current event headlines to life debuts Nov. 5.

Rated R by the lead actor for its intense and broad subject matter; the “Hummingbird Wars” is a metaphor for the fragility of the American middle-class that is explored in this satirical, dark comedy.

Sonoma State University’s production of “Hummingbird Wars” follows a middle-class family based in Minnesota, and tells the story of an Afghan war-hero and father; Warren, who’s efforts to assimilate back into a family lifestyle prove to have many more challenges than expected.
The play is described as a “new satire that captures the outrageous and harrowing extremes of life when a man and his family fight against the threat of middle-class extinction in the twenty-first Century,” by the Theater Arts and Dance department.

Carter Lewis, the writer of “Hummingbird Wars”, “ripped” his contemporary story from today’s headlines, as seen by his consistency in following many of today’s taboo political issues.
Warren, the protagonist is faced with many contemporary issues throughout the play, such as cyber-bullying, gun control, PTSD and pharmaceutical conspiracy theories, many of which he confronts with his family.

Anyone who has picked up a newspaper in the past few years might be familiar with these nationwide issues.

David O’Connell, a Sonoma State alum of the theater arts and dance department plays Warren Rieves, the father of the family.

“[Warren] acts like a sort of crisis manager for the family, trying to keep balance and cling to the comfortable and the familiar in the face of the constant avalanche of everything that is not fine.”

O’Connell appreciates that the show touches on many of his concerns in modern American society, such as our compromised political and educational systems, pharmaceutical companies and mental health, gun culture and school shootings, war, bullying, online privacy, and basic advertising, and a general bureaucratic idiocy.”

O’Connell expresses his excitement for the production. “It tackles so many issues and that’s kind of the major theme of the play,” he said. “It deals with putting out a whole bunch of tiny fires all at once and by the end of the play it’s built up so much that the sort of thought that ‘it’s fine, I can handle this’ becomes ‘no, we have to do something about this’, and that's what i'm looking forward to, is seeing people respond to that.”

O’Connell compared many of the themes in the play and how the characters deal with them to how our society views these issues.

“There’s some sort of exaggerated element on the issues regarding guns,” said O’Connell. “The son keeps finding loaded guns everywhere and that’s not a realistic scenario but it’s one that when you look at the prevalence of guns and gun culture in America, they seem to show up everywhere, and that showing up in the play is a sort of metaphor for our cultural consciousness of our society, and that’s sort of a metaphor.”

Playwright Carter Lewis has worked closely with the director and the Sonoma State cast and has been involved in the process of the production. “Hummingbird Wars” is a fairly recent work of his that has been rewritten and edited over the past couple of years since it was first released.

Lewis came in for the first read-through of the script, and gave the cast a chance to pick his mind about the production. Since it’s such a recent work, it’s still undergoing an ongoing creative process, so much so that the ending of the show was entirely changed to “a more obviously hopeful ending than the previous one,” said O’Connell.

This will be the third time the show is performed and the first time Lewis sees it in action. Carter Lewis will be the guest at a pre-performance talk “$5 Friend and Family Night” on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m.

This new and contemporary show will first hit the stage on Nov. 5, and will be playing until Nov. 12. Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with a 2 p.m. matinee. Seawolves are admitted free to all Sonoma State productions with a valid student ID. Non-Sonoma State students and seniors are $10, Sonoma State Faculty and Staff $15, and regular admission is $17.