Reviewed by Lory Martinez
Last weekend (March 6-8), audiences piled into Binghamton University’s Watters Theater for the opening of Anne Brady’s production of Aaron Posner’s Stupid F##king Bird, loosely based on the Anton Chekov play The Seagull. The show, which addresses the nature of theater in a changing world, leaves one with a feeling of having seen something both incredibly absurd and thought-provoking.
One of the best things about going to the theater is seeing a character we can relate to or seeing a scenario in which we can cast ourselves perfectly. This play does that and so much more. It presents us with real human emotion — the desire for love and affection, sadness and regret — all while providing a heavy dose of metacommentary on what the theater does for us as audience memberss. Bird is a play that asks the question “What does art make you feel?” and answers it with deconstructed scenes in which the characters tell us how they feel about their art.
The seven characters in the cast know they are in a play and indeed comment on that fact several times throughout the show. Rob Tendy plays Conrad, a young writer struggling to make it as his girlfriend, Nina, falls in love with a more successful writer, Doyle Trigorin. Trigorin’s lover is Conrad’s mother, Emma, an actress who has never supported her son’s work. Mash is in love with Conrad, who will never love her. Dev, Conrad’s best friend, is in love with Mash, who, naturally, will never love him. And then there’s Sorn, Conrad’s uncle, who just wants to be loved — by anyone.
It’s a big, messy, Russian love story that plays with traditional form, turning it into a modern multi-dimensional dramedy.
Bird is dramatic and, at times, dense in theatrical commentary, but it remains lighthearted and charming with the help of a talented cast. Among the outstanding performances: Eric Berger as Sorn and Imani Pearl Williams as Emma. Berger is an audience favorite because of his perfect comedic timing. In one scene, as the characters line up to tell the audience what they want from life, he says with a big smile on his face, “I want a hug … that lasts a month.” Williams’ Emma speaks with incredible bravado when Trigorin is tempted to leave her for Stephanie Gomerez’s Nina.
Danielle Nigro’s Mash adds a charming musical element to the show with her singing and ukelele-playing while Anthony Gabrielle’s Dev is delightfully awkward around her. Tyler Downey’s Trigorin fascinates when he speaks about the nature of fame and appearances, and Rob Tendy’s Conrad is mesmerizing as he jumps from one idea to the next in his monologues about theater, life and love, mirroring the author who created his character.
In three acts, Stupid F##king Bird does what I think a lot of plays strive to do: leave a lasting impression, changing the way audiences perceive things after exiting the theater and making them appreciate beauty differently.
This show is not for those seeking instant gratification with a few laughs here and there (though there are plenty to be had) but rather for those open to a new form of theater, one that presents us with the life it takes its art from.
IF YOU GO: Performances of Stupid F##king Bird will be 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (March 13-14) and 2 p.m. Sunday (March 15) in BU’s Anderson Center. For tickets or more information, call 777-ARTS (777-2787) or visit theatre.binghamton.edu.