No matter how harrowing someone's situation becomes, "Everything will be fine" and "It's all going to be OK" emerge as the most common choruses from among that person's acquaintances.

What if, however, such sentiments seemed impossible even to contemplate let alone utter because of the strength of a matter's uncertainty? With The Birds, its Season 12 opener, Curio Theatre Co. addresses that inquiry with balanced doses of levity and gravity, resulting in a bare and brave look at responsibilities to oneself and others.

The Conor McPherson adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's short story - the basis for a much-commended element of Alfred Hitchcock's canon - finds four characters contending with agonizing odds as the title creatures look to put feathers in their caps by eradicating humanity. Wondering at every turn what will physically and emotionally sustain each compromised journey, the quartet must battle not only the possibility of suffering bodily harm but also the far more taxing likelihood of dying from within.

Curio regular Elizabeth Carlson-Guerin helms the action, which immediately begins in darkness and reinforces the idea that self-constructed conflict will always register as the most compelling and compassion-inducing kind. Rich Bradford makes his Curio debut as Nat, whose initial paranoia yields to a more contemplative demeanor as his suddenly limited life plays out in a home with Julia, played by new company member Tessa Kuhn, and Diane, embodied by founding company member Aetna Gallagher.

No knock against youth, as Bradford and Kuhn work well in helping audience members to appreciate their characters' qualms, but Gallagher and fellow company member Ken Opdenaker, as the farmer Tierney, resonate as extremely gifted performers. Their portrayals teem with such sadness that one can easily root for them to survive, even though the advancing years would find them in constant searches for food and forgiveness, extreme rarities in McPherson's text.

Each foursome member's vulnerability makes for a solid execution of the plot, with piercing bird noises reminding the audience that if Diane, Nat, Julia, and Tierney do not mangle one another, the sky occupiers will willingly complete the task. One can say Gallagher, in taking on a role rich with ruminations, stands as the star, as Diane's feeble attempts to resolve the past find her waging a fight between despair and diligence that drives the entire narrative, notably her exchanges with Julia. The Birds, though, gives the characters chances to squawk at hopelessness and consider a tolerable resolution.



The Birds

Through Oct. 29, presented by Curio Theatre Company at the Calvary Center, 4740 Baltimore Ave.

Tickets: $20-$25. Information: 215-525-1350 or EndText