Wednesday, March 16, 2016

reviews - STUPID FUCKING BIRD - Stray Cat Theatre

(foreground) Phillip Herrington, (left to right) Louis Farber, Melody Knudson,
Charles Sohn, Shari Watts, and Wyatt Kent
photo: John Groseclose
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 26th.

"...Built on the bones of Chekhov’s The Seagull and updated to a present day setting, the plot of Stupid F**king Bird, ...is, in a roundabout way, kind of, sort of the same.  The seven main characters are there while the central conflicts swirl like a fevered whirling dervish around the four major players as they wrestle with their artistic ideals, their hopes and insecurities, their jealousies and their romances....Posner has a passion for theatre and has brooded over what theatre is, what it means, how it inspires, and what it can ultimately do.... it's in the writing that he’s poured every critical thought, every question, and presumably every observation on the subject of art, love and theatre that has ever passed through his theatrically obsessed mind.  It’s as though he purposely wrote for himself without compromise – you either get it or you don’t – and it’s entirely up to you what you make of it ...Despite the heaps of praise for Posner’s play that came from other critical quarters long before it arrived in the valley, there are requirements; a love and knowledge of theatre, plus – at the very least – an awareness of Chekhov’s original....without that knowledge nor an interest in themes explored, it won’t hold attention and it certainly won’t seem funny; you’ll switch off...it’s uncompromising.  To say otherwise is to kid yourself....The fine, seven piece ensemble all have their individual moment that breaks the fourth wall in order to address the audience, allowing us the luxury of getting to know them and hear what they’re thinking on a more direct level, but it’s the memory of Phillip Herrington’s Con and Shari Watts’ Emma that remains as you leave the theatre.... Con...delivers an outstandingly comical rant about the state of the art ..but like everything else in this challenging production, your reaction to it will vary depending on your personal knowledge of the theatre-going experience and the present size of the audience. Laughter is contagious.  See it with an appreciative packed house and you’ll think it hilarious.  See it with a small house and the laughs, if they come at all, will be hesitant....And if you’re there because you’re accompanying someone – or as Con states in his rant, you’re there because you think you should be rather than of your own free will – you’ll wonder what it is that passes itself off as theatre these days and what every character is whining about in the first place.  True to author Posner’s intention, it’s entirely up to you what you make of it. " -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Stray Cat Theatre presents the Valley premiere of Stupid Fucking Bird, a modern twist on Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, with a superb cast that gets to the heart of the serious and comical moments present in the adaptation. While not everything works in this take-off of Chekhov's play, the dramatic scenes, and monologues in particular, are smartly acted and directed. However, the problem is that the comedy is sometimes at odds with the more dramatic moments and you don't really care for most of the characters and aren't that concerned for what happens to them.. focuses on creative angst and love, both fulfilled and unrequited, and the mostly failed relationships and unsuccessful artistic endeavors that result from them. Posner also adds a huge dollop of self-reference into the piece, including having Conrad announce that he has written a play called Stupid Fucking Bird and having the actors break the fourth wall to talk to the audience at numerous times, and commenting that they know they are in a play. But this play within a play element never plays out to fruition and some of Posner's ideas...fall flat and don't really add much to the thrust of the play. While the self-referential component of the piece runs the risk of becoming precious or pretentious, it fortunately never does. However, it also doesn't add anything to the overall play. If Posner is trying to be funny, he is, but having the characters tell us that they know they are in a play and then proceeding onward with their individual character arcs and never having this element return to have any relevance is just lazy, awkward, and ultimately meaningless...Stray Cat's cast is exceptional and they create realistic, identifiable characters, even though they are almost all so miserable that you never truly care for them. ...Director Ron May infuses the proceedings with a deep sense of empathy and elicits rich performances from his cast. He knows how to mine laughs from the pathos of the characters and situations yet also makes the dramatic scenes sizzle. ...Full of angst and irony and characters who are "lost in love and dismally disappointed," as Mash states at one point, Stupid Fucking Bird will probably best be enjoyed by those who are familiar with Chekhov's play or those who appreciate Posner's irreverent take on the material and self-referential view of itself. Chekov himself spoke of new forms of theatre, and Posner also has Conrad lament this need to "open new possibilities." I just wish Posner had been able to find a way to truly pull all of his ideas together to truly create this new form of theatre that Chekov spoke of so many years ago."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Dev wants Mash, Mash wants Con, and Con’s world revolves around his actress girlfriend, Nina. But Nina has fallen for Trig, a famous writer who really only loves himself. What’s worse, he’s also the boyfriend of Con’s mother, who is also an actress...Students of 19th-century drama will recognize this convoluted love polygon as the plot of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” but you absolutely do not need a literature degree to enjoy Aaron Posner’s irreverent...adaptation, cheekily titled “Stupid F--king Bird.”...this uproarious comedy about existential angst is the latest offering from director Ron May and his cohorts at Stray Cat Theatre.....with a superb cast of seven that captures the script’s wacky R-rated humor (note: brief nudity) as well its very relatable poignancy....There isn’t a dud in the bunch...In addition to the absurdity of love, a central theme in the play is the inadequacy of art to deliver something truly new...Yet ultimately “Stupid F--king Bird” is a spirited rebuttal to that idea. Maybe there is nothing new under the sun, but the only choice for a storytelling species is to keep telling the same old story, but to do it with as much wit, awareness, humility and exuberance that we can muster."  - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

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