Birds Not of a Feather

Despite Axis Company's insistence that each of the four installments of its serial play Hospital 2005 is self-contained, the three short plays that make up the third episode are manifestly uneasy bedfellows. The umbrella conceit of the evening is flexible enough to be intriguing: having fallen victim to an avian flu pandemic sweeping in from the Far East, one lonely, anonymous man (roles are not attributed) slips into a terminal coma and spends the last few days of his existence wandering the troubled back alleys of his own mind. The problem is that, as the play wears on, these back alleys start to feel ever more disturbingly like little more than run-of-the mill tangents. The piece begins promisingly enough: a slickly professional short film projected onto a large screen at the rear of a blank stage chronicles the man's last day or so before his collapse. We begin with his morning ablutions, then follow him to his day job, where a persistent and worsening cough irks his co-workers, and then back to his home, where his rapidly deteriorating condition forces a repairman to call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Finally, as he slides into the coma, we watch his ghostly form step out of his body and see the hospital gown-clad actor physically enter the stage. What the man steps into, however, is the issue.

Of the three sections, the first is the most relevant to the man's recently changed circumstances. As he takes stock of his strange, new surroundings, a small gaggle of barefoot people dressed all in white enter from stage right

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