THEATER REVIEW: Stupid F-ing Bird — Dumb Title, Fine Play
When I first saw the uncensored title — Stupid Fucking Bird — I winced. Not because I don’t swear (I do, often), but because it smacks of the kind of deliberate provocation I associate with adolescents.
I’m happy to report that Aaron Posner’s sometimes wonderful adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull transcends the name. And it’s hard to imagine a more persuasive production than this one, elegantly directed by Posner himself, and featuring a terrific ensemble of seven actors — Cindy De La Cruz, Dan Hodge, Alex Keiper, Aubie Merrylees, Karl Miller, Greg Wood, and last but not least, Grace Gonglewski, in role that Posner conceived with her in mind.
Stupid Fucking Bird is subtler and far less jokey than it sounds. It’s also much closer to Chekhov than I expected. (All of this is very much to the good.) Though set in contemporary times and riffing considerably on current topics, it shares many fundamentals with The Seagull. This, too, is a play about the theater — more importantly, it’s a study in romantic hopes and the all-to-frequently disappointing reality. “Thwarted” is a word frequently repeated here by aspiring playwright, Conrad (Aubie Merrylees, who is superb in a difficult role).
Posner’s treatment of the topic is certainly lighter than Chekhov’s. We don’t find the depths of despair here that infuse The Seagull, though Merrylees and Greg Wood, in the show’s most completely satisfying performances, bring their own mournful underscoring. Occasionally, Posner (both as writer and director) goes too far. There’s some unnecessary nudity and crudity, and a final coda that feels self-consciously clever. On the other hand, at its best — as in a marvelous section where Con and others talk about the theater— the layers of history and our own world merge deliciously.
In all, I recommend Stupid Fucking Bird wholeheartedly. A few years ago, Arden’s Three Sisters reimagined Chekhov’s play in funky yet profound ways. This is similarly imaginative, and a suitable follow-up to that fine production.
My first reaction stands, though — it’s a stupid fucking title. The play deserves better.
Stupid Fucking Bird plays through October 16. For more information, visit the Arden Theatre website.