note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Sheila Barth
There are only a few days left to see Apollinaire Theatre’s “Stupid F.....ing Bird,” Aaron Posner’s delightfully entertaining, contemporary comedy/offbeat spoof of Chekhov’s classic masterpiece, “The Seagull”. And you don’t want to miss it.
Directed by the theater’s intrepid, consistently superlative artistic director, Danielle Fauteux Jacques, this three-act, 2-1/2 hour romp is one of the funniest, most clever adaptation of Chekhov’s brilliant work, thanks to Jacques and her fearless, outstanding cast.
Why fearless, you ask?
Because the group makes individual eye contact and frequently addresses theatergoers, swooping us into the action, enhancing our appreciation of their characters’ dilemmas, woes, complaints, joys, and frustrations. Each actor steps out of scenes to reveal who they are, their hopes, dreams, and downfalls. And they do it so well, with a skillful comedic edge, lightening up their tragedies, depression, and disappointments, thus avoiding their being weighted down with Chekhov’s Russian black cloud.
Posner, who has written many prize-winning plays, directed, and adapted hits such as “The Chosen,” and “My Name is Asher Lev”. Updating the play to today, Posner touches on the major themes of “The Seagull,” including struggles between the past and present, youth vs. old age, classic theater vs. new form, happiness, and life’s meaning. He injects some jabs, too, about the hierarchy of actors, from performers on legitimate stage, in movies, and on a lower rung of the ladder- TV crime series.
Cast members’ success springs from their camaraderie and charisma on stage, spilling out to the post-show reception. Although they started out as strangers, they genuinely like each other, and appreciate each other’s talent, which shines on stage. And they credit Jacques for creating a warm, fun, working atmosphere.
In-between acts, sound designer David Reiffel’s 1920’s music that once accompanied acts and movie scenes, enlivens the play’s comedic tone and liveliness.
In Apollinaire’s intimate space, before the play begins, the cast is working out, stretching, each doing his/her own thing. When the lights flicker, signaling the play’s opening, Mash (Emily Hecht), a young woman dressed in black goth, strums on a ukelele, singing about how depressed and miserable she is. “Life is disappointing,” she croons. But Dev (Brooks Reeves), who’s passionately in love with her, and whom she ignores, tries to comfort her, saying his life is worse. He’s poor, an orphan, lonely, unhappy in love, and a ginger (redhead). He loves her, even though he knows she loves sensitive, emotionally vulnerable, aspiring playwright-writer Con (Diego Buscaglia), who loves and adores innocent aspiring actress, Nina (fresh-faced Alana Osborn-Lief).
Amid all this despair, Dev is upbeat and clings to hope.
Con has invited his famous actress mother, Emma, (elegant Jeanine Frost) and her younger, womanizing successful writer boyfriend, Trig, (Kevin Cirone) to see his philosophical, one-person play starring Nina, set on a makeshift stage in the family estate’s back yard.
While Con’s supportive uncle Sorn, (Jack Schultz) is complimentary to Con and Nina - as is the polite gathering - Emma calls it pretentious drivel, hurting Con‘s feelings, and creating a rift between them. Every character has his/her hang-up, shtick, conflict and disappointment, which emerges throughout this fast-paced farce. Both victims of unrequited love, not-too-bright Dev is intellectual, depressed Con’s foil and cheerleader,.
Lovely, virginal Nina, the love of Con’s life, is hopeful, dazzled, infatuated by ladies’ man Trig, whom Emma refuses to release from her tight grasp.
After consulting theatergoers on how to win back Nina’s love, Con shoots and awkwardly gives Nina a dead seagull in a sack as a token of his love. Together, they’re a riot. “It’s just a stupid f......g bird,” he says, reacting to her quizzical stare. “I’m losing it.”
Every scene is skillfully crafted, whether it’s a screaming match between characters, or a nude love scene between Frost and Cirone, where Emma and Trig are surrounded by their unrequited counterparts in a makeshift Greek chorus, eating food and voicing their frustration.
Life continues, with a few surprises, as Dev, at the piano, and Mash on ukelele, sing “On and On and On”. Sorn, whose role Posner combined with the doctor, is a self-professed Mr. Cellophane. He supports everyone else, keeping peace, but nobody asks about or considers his feelings. Four years later, during his 60th birthday party, decorated with balloons, party hats, and birthday cake, Sorn reveals his feelings, saying he wanted to be an actor or anything other than a doctor, dealing with all those sick people! He feels make-believe, not like a real person.
And Con, who drinks heavily and rants against the older generation’s stealing and mortgaging youth’s future, has written a successful work, “Stupid F.......g Bird”. But he still loves Nina, who’s back in town, visits him, and is radically transformed, after Trig used and threw her away, stripping her of her dignity. Should Con shoot himself in the head and end it all, he asks, wavering?
Tying up loose ends, the characters each reveal their future.
Frankly, I can’t remember enjoying Chekhov more!
BOX INFO: Aaron Posner’s three-act, 2-1/2 hour satire, appearing with Apollinaire Theatre Company through April 26, at the Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea. Contains adult content, language and brief nudity. Post-show reception with the cast follows every performance. Showtimes: Friday, Saturday, at 8 p.m. Advance tickets, $20; at the door, $25; students, $15. Call 617-887-2336 or visit www.apollinairetheatre.com.