Review: Stupid Fucking Bird (Sideshow Theatre)

| August 25, 2014
Nina O’Keefe stars as Nina in Sideshow Theatre's "Stupid Fucking Bird" by Aaron Posner, directed by Jonathan L. Green. (photo credit:  by Jonathan L. Green)        
      
Stupid Fucking Bird

Written by Aaron Posner
Directed by Jonathan L. Green 
at RC Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Sept 21  |  tickets: $20-$25   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review
     


    
  

F#cking brilliant!!

     

Nina O’Keefe stars as Nina in Sideshow Theatre's "Stupid Fucking Bird" by Aaron Posner, directed by Jonathan L. Green. (photo credit:  by Jonathan L. Green)

    
Sideshow Theatre Company presents
    
Stupid Fucking Bird

Review by Joy Campbell

Russian literature, with its tortured, Emo-laden characters and running threads of doom, is ripe for parody (see Woody Allen’s film “Love and Death”). Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fucking Bird, however, is not some easy spoof of The Seagull; instead, Posner uses Chekhov’s classic tale of rampant unrequited love and emotional misery as a familiar springboard into a hilarious and entertaining modern take on the search for love and meaningful art.

Stacy Stoltz and Cody Proctor in Sideshow Theatre's "Stupid Fucking Bird" by Aaron Posner, directed by Jonathan L. Green. (photo credit:  by Jonathan L. Green)Conrad (Nate Whelden) is a playwright, in love with aspiring (if not particularly talented) actress Nina (Nina O’Keefe); Nina loves Conrad; Conrad’s mother, Emma (Stacy Stolz), is a famous actress and mediocre mother, dating literary legend Trigorin (Cody Proctor); Mash (Katy Carolina Collins) is in love with Conrad; Dev (Matt Fletcher) is in love with Mash; Emma’s father, Sorn (Norm Woodel), isn’t in love with anyone, but is in ill health, unbeknownst to anyone else. Conrad is desperate to write something meaningful and to get out from under his mother’s shadow. In the meantime, an attraction develops between Nina and Trigorin that causes the whole house of cards to come tumbling down.

The basic Chekovian framework is familiar enough, but Posner takes this framework and elevates the story into a modern play-within-a-play through current sensibilities and scene after scene of scathingly hilarious, thoroughly insightful social commentary on everything from the condition of modern theater (with no dearth of digs at its pretentions) to the nature of attraction between older men and younger women. The script is a ringing blade of incisive wit that cuts through pretention and convention with observations that invite us to join in the fun and laugh at ourselves (the fourth wall is broken, and in the process the audience becomes another besotted character. You had me at “site-specific performance piece.”) They make fun of theater while never forgetting that it includes them, and Okeefe’s Nina sets the central romantic gesture of The Seagull on its ear by short-cutting the intent and going right to the act’s obvious repulsiveness.

Nate Whelden’s Con is terrific. A powerhouse of sincere passion and self-deprecation, he is Love’s Fool, and he knows it. His pain comes from his depthless love and his search for art that transforms, in a world more addicted to spectacle than message. (His description of certain famous shows as “theater hand jobs” will have you breathless with laughter.) He’s a sweet, earnest, desperately unhappy guy whose doom is his sincerity, but whose unhappiness is delivered with the kind of entertaining observations that make you laugh out loud while nodding in agreement at his pain. He’s a purist pain in the ass, but he’s right.

Cody Proctor, Nina O’Keefe and Stacy Stoltz in Sideshow Theatre's "Stupid Fucking Bird" by Aaron Posner, directed by Jonathan L. Green. (photo credit:  by Jonathan L. Green)

Matt Fletcher as Dev, Con’s longsuffering friend and counterpoint who wishes his pal would suck it up already and get over himself, plays the straight man to perfection, and his comments, asides, and facial expressions perfect the scenes between the two. He is absolutely endearing.

As Mash, Collins is a scene-stealer. No weeping, swooning flower, she manifest her despair at her unrequited love for Con in black garb, delicious deadpan sarcasm, and the funniest bitter ukulele songs ever (kudos to James Sugg for original music). She takes her pain seriously, but her bitterness extends to her acknowledgement of its self-indulgence.

The entire cast is dead-on, with impeccable chemistry and outstanding performances that hold up through the final scene, which turns fairly dark (remember: Russian-inspired), and where they get a chance to show some amazing range.

Joe Schermoly’s versatile set echoes the play-within-a play motif with a design that is taken apart and re-configured by the performers, going from outdoor backdrop to interior, to a raked stage as we move from story toward reality.

As Conrad observes, maybe creating meaningful theater isn’t about finding new forms; maybe it’s about making the old forms work better. Posner’s script does it beautifully. Stupid Fucking Bird, simply put, is pretty fucking brilliant.

  
Rating: ★★★★
  
   

Stupid Fucking Bird continues through September 21st at Victory Garden’s Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $20-$25, and are available by phone (773-871-3000) or online through VictoryGardens.org (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at SideshowTheatre.org(Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)

Norm Woodel, Katy Carolina Collins, Matt Fletcher, Nate Whelden, Stacy Stoltz, Cody Proctor and Nina O’Keefe in Sideshow Theatre's "Stupid Fucking Bird" by Aaron Posner, directed by Jonathan L. Green. (photo credit:  by Jonathan L. Green)

Photos by Jonathan L. Green 


     

artists

cast

Nate Wheldon (Con), Matt Fletcher (Dev), Katy Carolina Collins (Mash), Norm Woodel (Sorn), Nina O’Keefe (Nina), Stacy Stolz (Emma), Cody Proctor (Trig)

behind the scenes

Jonathan L. Green (director, photos), Joe Schermoly (scenic design), Kimberly G. Morris (costume design), William Kirkham (lighting design), Christopher M. LaPorte (sound design, additional music), Cassy Schillo (properties designer), Ryan Milosevich (technical director), Steven Besic (stage manager), Aaron Shapiro (production manager), Gabriella Welsh (assistant stage manager), Jessica Martens (assistant director), Cypress Staelin (master electrician), James Sugg (original music), Alex Benjamin (music coordinator), John Henley (poster illustration), David Rosenberg Public Relations (publicist)

Matt Fletcher, Katy Carolina Collins, Nina O’Keefe, Nate Whelden, Cody Proctor, Stacy Stoltz and Norm Woodel in Sideshow Theatre's "Stupid Fucking Bird" by Aaron Posner, directed by Jonathan L. Green. (photo credit:  by Jonathan L. Green)

14-0838

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 2014 Reviews, Adaptation, Anton Chekhov, Joy Campbell, Richard Christiansen Theatre, Sideshow Theatre

Comments (0)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.

Comments are closed.