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Strong cast saves ‘Stupid F*cking Bird’ at 12 Peers Theater despite Chekov’s source material

By July 30, 2018 No Comments

Photo Courtesy of Gregory Messmer

Sure, I’ll admit it; I’m an idiot. While the rest of the world is oohing and aahing over something, I’m usually seated off alone wondering what the fuss is about. Which brings us to Anton Chekov. Here’s this Russian playwright who, you’d think from all the hullabaloo, invented modern theater (well okay, he sorta/kinda did) but I can’t find enough bad things to say about his “hits” like Uncle Vanya, The Cherry Orchard and what I believe is the worst play ever written Three Sisters. 

Stupid Fucking Bird continues through August 12. Richard E. Rauh Studio Theater, Cathedral of Learning. University of Pittsburgh, Oakland. www.12peers.org

Then there’s The Seagull. Not only do people love this numbing story about a bunch of artists and hangers-on complaining about how miserable they are, several playwrights have written their own adaptations of it … including, unbelievably, Tennessee Williams! In 2013 Philadelphia playwright Aaron Posner come up with his own version called Stupid Fucking Bird and it’s now receiving its local premiere through 12 Peers Theatre.

I’ll tell you this – if I have to sit through any version of The Seagull this is definitely the one I would choose. Posner does a great job blowing away some of the cobwebs accumulated on this 1895 script. And what with the story concerning an actress, Emma, her playwright son Conrad and his actress girlfriend Nina, Posner makes it a meta-theatrical event. The characters break the fourth wall addressing us directly, often as the actor playing the role speaking of their experience being in this production.

Ultimately, I think, Posner can’t entirely overcome Chekov; not surprisingly Anton is baked into the story’s DNA. These characters are still hopelessly unhappy and nauseatingly, relentlessly, vocal about it. You know how when your caller ID flashes the name of a constantly depressed friend and you let them go to voice mail? The feeling strikes you again and again: “Oh Lord, here comes another monologue about life’s misery. Yum.”

Look … these people think they got problems? Let me just say one word: Trump. Then let me add some advice “get a real job and shut up.”

I am, however, happy to tout the strong performances happening under Vince Ventura’s direction. I was bowled over by Chris Cattell and Matt Henderson and Conrad and Dev. Maura Underwood is mesmerizing as Emma and Sarah Chelli is sadly moving playing Nina.

Sara Ashley Fisher, Stefan Lingenfelter and David Maslow provide powerful support and Hank Bullington had designed the very handsome setting.

 

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