Actor Darrell Shipley barrels out onto the birdseed-strewn stage and immediately you think stand up comedy. Well, What It Takes to Feed a Pterodactyl is comedy, but the blackest form of it, for Darrell is here to tell us about the last months of his mother’s life and his courageous and sometimes very funny efforts to make her last months bearable.
Darrell is immensely likeable from the first moment we meet him on stage and, you want him to have a happy ending. He portrays lots of characters that came their way in those months, some to help and some not to, and he gives each of them their own unique spin, often just a twist in accent, others a gesture all their own (portraying his loud and overbearing brother, for instance, Darrell would lean incredibly forward, making Darrell look so much taller than he is).
His mother herself is one of his best creations. Outspoken and non-censored in her feelings, she is very direct and very funny. Her dialogue gets lots of laughs. Of course the play isn’t a comedy, because it is really about his mothers death, but the writing is so sharp and the buttons on every scene so touching that when Mrs. Shipley finally does succumb, we are suddenly sorrowful and surprised. This is because Darrell Shipley, the playwright and actor, has kept us laughing and made us forget the importance of what we were watching.
Someone close to me died many years ago and he said bitterly on his deathbed “Don’t they know this is serious?” What It Takes to Feed a Pterodactyl certainly is, but it is due to the skill of Mr. Shipley to have kept us not only entertained, but laughing all the way along his sad journey.