From Georgetown’s oldest student theater group, the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society, comes its final mainstage production of the spring semester: “Stupid F***ing Bird.” Described by the Society as a “meta-theatrical exploration of the nature of love and emotional presence,” “Stupid F***ing Bird” follows a group of seven diverse individuals, each of whom is dealing with personal and intrapersonal problems relating to the self, unhappiness and love.
The show’s lead character, Conrad, played by Johnny Monday (COL ’18), is an aspiring director who resents his mother, a once-successful actress, and her celebrity boyfriend, Trig. Nina, Conrad’s girlfriend and muse, quickly becomes enamored with Trig, sparking one of many romantic complications that unfold throughout the play. “Stupid F***ing Bird” is no simple tale of love triangles, however, and focuses more deeply on exploring characters’ feelings of failure and dissatisfaction in their personal and professional lives.
If these storylines and themes sound familiar, it is likely because they are loosely based on ideas from Russian writer Anton Chekhov’s 1896 play, “The Seagull.” “Stupid F***ing Bird” was first written by American playwright Aaron Posner in 2013 as a deconstructed modern-day adaptation of Chekhov’s play.
“Chekhov is all based on naturalism and realism in the theater and representing onstage what we find in life. What this play does is it inverts that,” student director Alex Yurcaba (COL ’18) said. It takes all of the subtext and all of the things that are underneath Chekhov … explode[s] it and then from those remains, pick[s] up critique about the way that theater is made.”
Although “Stupid F***ing Bird” unveils pointed criticism on the state of art and theater today, it also presents a clear view on the current social and political climate. At certain points throughout the play, Conrad passionately decries “fake news” and “the global glorification of meanness,” even crying at one point, “Why do I want to change the world? Because the world needs changing!”
Yurcaba expressed a similar view.
“The play functions as both a theater critique and a social critique, and I think it has never been more relevant than it is right now, given the election,” Yurcaba said. “This play, which so acutely critiques sentimentality and superficiality has really struck a chord with my sensibility about … how people in this country think about the world and think about each other.”
Much of the performance’s impact came from its engagement with the audience. The play itself starts when Conrad storms onto the stage, demanding that a member of the audience say, “Start the f–––ing play,” before the show can begin. At many other instances throughout the play, the cast members interact with the audience, repeatedly breaking the fourth wall.
“It’s meta-theatrical in that the actors get to communicate with the audience, and by virtue of that, every performance is … going to be different because every audience is different,” Yurcaba said. That opens us up for a lot of room to improvise, and improvisation in this process has been the progenitor of a lot of really great moments in the show.”
This emphasis on fluidity and improvisation certainly resulted in powerful and resonant performances by the actors. That being said, much of the character development process also occurred in rehearsals weeks prior to the show.
“It became — a lot of times in the rehearsal room — a conversation with actors and just asking actors to be emotionally vulnerable and forthcoming,” Yurcaba said. “The more vulnerable we all were in the room, the easier it was to facilitate the discovery of these characters because they are so emotionally honest and poignant.”
In addition to the show’s standout acting performances, audience members can also look forward to seeing live music and visually compelling set designs.
“We’ve had a really great team of really talented and insightful designers — our sound designer … light designer, a set designer, a props designer, costumes designers — so everything you see onstage was designed and dreamed up and thought about and discussed and bantered back-and-forth at meetings before it got to where it is right now,” Yurcaba said.
The staging setup, too, served to create a greater sense of engagement with the audience. Seats surrounded three-quarters of the stage itself, allowing playgoers to have distinctive vantage points of the performance.
As the play cut to intermission, cloaking Stage III of Poulton Hall in a shroud of darkness, audience members were abuzz. “Stupid F–––ing Bird” is, at its core, an intensely human play, with the potential to spark conversation or impact and speak to anyone who views it. Those who choose to see the show a second time will be especially enthusiastic in shouting, “Start the f–––ing play!” as they wait with excitement for the darkly comedic play to begin.
“Stupid F***ing Bird” runs from April 6 to 8 at 8 p.m., April 9 at 2 p.m. and April 19 to 22 at 8 p.m. in Poulton Hall. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $8 for students and can be purchased online or before the show if any remain available.
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