Just when you think Anton Chekhov's classic The Seagull couldn't get any darker, Aaron Posner's Stupid Fucking Bird (gonna' just refer to it as Bird from this point on) adapts the story to our contemporary times while interlacing biting humor that relieves the show's emotional tension during the show's opening night Friday, February 4.
When Bird debuted at Washington, D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in 2013, the theatre company's Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz believed the play had the essence of Chekhov's original intent for the piece: what it means to create art. The University of New Orleans Theatre Department's staging of this production, directed by third-year directing graduate Maggie Tonra, ambitiously accepted the challenge in producing this minimalist interpretation.
In depicting the timeless battle of "out with the old and in with the new" energy in contention with "the wisdom of age over youthful inexperience," the lines are drawn in all areas of life worth living, including family, love, and artistic expression. The interrelationship of Bird's seven characters are the thing daytime soap operas (or binge-worthy streaming shows) are made of. And oh what a tangled web is weaved though the three-act play.
Without trodding on spoiler alerts, the plot revolves around fledgling playwright Con (Raegan Rozas) putting on a play at the estate of her mother Emma, a famous actress herself (Rachel Morris). Con's futile attempts to win her overbearing parent's approval is worsened by her casting her girlfriend Nina (Jaida Alphonso) in the lead. But it's Nina's interest in Emma's famous author-boyfriend Trig (Aaron Brewer) that really drives the all-but-certain debacles ahead. Add a love triangle of unreciprocated love with Connie's good friends Dev (KC Simmons) and Mash (Sophia Oprea), along with a love-lorn uncle—Emma's brother (Russell Leak).
Clever updates are made even to the 2013 script to maintain a modern-day relevance, including not-too-sublte references to Hamilton and updating Con—originally written as a son—to lesbian daughter Connie.
But it's the play's meta approach that really amps the question on the meaning of art. The fourth wall isn't broken, its demolished as the characters not only address the audience, they engage the crowd, eliciting advice and thoughts to seemingly advance the narrative. This makes the audience complicit when Con is inspired to kill a seagull (aka. the bird in question?) as a twisted offering to prove her love for Nina—herself channeling a seagull with flapping arms in a snowy white dress earlier in a show within the show—and the wheels come off the rails.
Poised to launch into professional performing arts careers, standout performances by Rachel Morris as a dryly hilarious Emma (delivering lines like, "Children and art...How fun!" with an exasperated flamboyance to which many parents will relate), Sophia Oprea as a delightfully sarcastic Mash, and Aaron Brewer's easy-going Trig who uncomfortably sprinkles philosophical tropes like rose pedals among love interests to keep the drama moving. The actors approach their characters with confidence and emotionally believability.
Stupid Fucking Bird will be running from Feb 4-12 at UNO's Robert E. Nims Theatre in the PAC building. Tickets can be reserved now online through UNO's Eventbrite: stupidfuckingbirduno.eventbrite.com.
NOTE TO FIRST-TIME VISITORS: Do not use GPS to find Robert E. Nims Theatre—it will lead drivers to UNO's gated housing authority office on the another part of the campus. Get a map of the campus and find it the old-school way.