Review: ‘Stupid Fucking Bird’ at Silver Spring Stage

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Stupid Fucking Bird is Aaron Posner’s inspired and irreverent takeoff on Anton Chekhov’s 19th Century play The Seagull. Stupid Fucking Bird follows the plotline of its predecessor, while simultaneously poking fun at it. It became something of an instant classic in its own right when it debuted at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in 2013 and it now returns to DC in a production by Silver Spring Stage.

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Director Ricky Drummond has put together a bare-bones staging that brings character and dialogue to the fore. In a 2014 interview with DCMetroTheaterArts, Aaron Posner described the story of The Seagull and Stupid Fucking Bird as, “love and loss and art and the day to day to day struggle of being a human being.” This production puts the spotlight on the word struggle. The characters in Stupid Fucking Bird are full of angst about their art, how they are perceived by others, and pretty much the only kind of love that exists in this world is unrequited. There is a lot of 19th Century existential hand wringing transported to the 21st Century where it fits perfectly.

I was prepared for the Chekhov inspired plotline; I was prepared for the irreverence. What surprised me about the show was how very “meta” it was. There was a conscientious effort to break the fourth wall as much as possible throughout the show. Prior to curtain, the actors were milling about onstage. Backstage curtains were pulled back revealing the wings. With a neat flick of the wrist, the actors pull the curtains shut just as the dialogue begins. The house lights don’t dim for several seconds. The message of this strange introduction is soon clear: You, dear audience, are a part of this show tonight.

Throughout the show, the actors interact with the audience on many levels. There are references to the fact that they are just characters in a play. The actors themselves move pieces between scenes and call out stage directions. When not in a scene, the actors are mostly sitting to the rear of the stage watching the action. At times I found it distracting that an actor would be onstage watching then disappear behind a curtain only to reappear moments later from another, but overall, it worked to reinforce the self-referential nature of the show.

The small cast of seven works well as a team, and has great chemistry. Silver Spring Stage veteran Craig Miller (Sorn) gets lots of laughs in his life-pondering monologues and Emily Morrison (Emma) is at her best when letting loose on the men in her life (Con and Trigorin, played by Kevin Dykstra, and JC Payne).

I really enjoyed JC Payne as Con, the lovesick son and would-be writer. This is Payne’s first performance on a DC area stage and proves that he is a welcome addition to the DC area theater scene. His final monologue was especially powerful in tone and subject matter and his scenes with love interest Nina (Annie Caruso) were appropriately tortured. Zac Brightbill was humorous throughout the show, and was entertaining in his duet with Tori Boutin in the final act.

Tori Boutin delivered a sarcasm drenched performance as depressive, ukulele strumming Goth girl Mash. (Costume Designer Madeline Belknap amassed an impressive collection of black and grey outfits for her to wear and James Sugg composed the humorous tunes.)

Andrew Greenleaf’s set design takes minimal to a new level in Act One, and the cheery yellow of the simple kitchen set in Act Two is entertaining in its vivid contrast to the bleakness and nihilism being spouted by the characters within its walls.

The stark white lighting by Chris Curtis complemented the unvarnished minimal set. The lighting and sound combine effectively to heighten the sense of confrontation in one scene between Nina and Con.

Silver Spring Stage’s well-performed Stupid Fucking Bird is a fun production for anyone who enjoys poking fun at the absurdity of life.

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Running Time: Two hours and 10 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Stupid Fucking Bird performs through November 12th, 2016, at Silver Spring Stage – 10145 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD. For tickets, buy them at the box office one hour before the show, or purchase them online.

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