One of the advantages of having a university theatre department in your home town is that you do not have to travel to Chicago or New York City to experience some of the most contemporary theatre being performed today. We train our students in these new works and techniques, in turn entreating our audiences to experiences they will not find anywhere else in the region. And so it is with Stupid F*@%ing Bird by Aaron Posner and directed by Jeff Casazza, which will run from Feb 17 – 25 at IPFW’s Williams Theatre.
Posner’s takeoff on Anton Chekhov’s somewhat dusty 19th-century play The Seagull is a combination of extreme silliness and searing insight that not only makes Stupid F*@%ing Bird engrossing, but also emotionally resonant in a startling sort of way. Chekhov was revolutionary in his time and Posner has made him so again. He has taken Chekhov’s classic and run it through a post-modern, post-theatrical shredder taking the actors and audience on a wild and crazy “meta-theatrical” ride. It became something of an instant classic in its own right when it debuted at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in 2013 in Washington, D.C., and has been one of the most produced contemporary plays in recent years and was called “the best Chekhov adaptation in two decades” by L.A. Weekly.
So what is meta-theatre anyway? Meta-theatre describes aspects of a play that draw attention to its nature as theatre, or to the circumstances of its performance. Those aspects often include actors directly addressing the audience, dropping the notion of a fourth wall, and the acknowledgement of the fact that the people performing are actors and not actually the characters they are playing.
You don’t have to know The Seagull to enjoy the production, but if you do know Chekhov’s play, you’re bound to be surprised and delighted by these meta-theatrical actors/characters as they navigate the murky waters of this insightful play.
Stupid F*@%ing Bird concerns a roundelay of romantic and emotional entanglements amongst a group of family members and their friends gathered at a large beach house. Emma, a famous diva who is not about to relinquish the spotlight, is surrounded by Sorn, her genial doctor brother and her son Con, a tortured artist who demands too much from the world and gives little in return. Emma’s proud and pompous lover Trigorin is tempted by the love of Con’s life, the ambitious, but soon to be tragic Nina, while timid Dev swoons for Goth girl Mash, who channels her depression by writing and singing happy ukulele tunes about the harshness of life and love.
And while these may not be the most likable self-absorbed characters (Chekhov’s weren’t either for that matter), you’ll never, ever be bored by them. From the beginning they fill the stage with bursts of energy and enthusiasm through their dialogue, which is filled with hilarious lines, critiquing each other and the play they’re in. Yes, these characters know that they’re in a play, and they happily comment on the relevance of theatre in the 21st century. It will give you a refreshing look at how theatre embraces our world today.