Conrad loves Nina who is smitten with Trigorin who is the boyfriend of Emma. Mash adores Conrad, but is pursued by Dev and Dr. Sorn just wants a hug. This is Stupid F@#!ing Bird, a sort of adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull written by Aaron Posner and currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
This is one of the smartest, cleverest, funniest scripts I have ever seen produced. Posner has a great gift for wordplay and his writing shows a love for and a frustration with the work of Chekhov. A sort of adaptation is the best way to describe this piece as it is not a complete parody of The Seagull. It mostly retains its story, but modernizes the language and peppers it with light-hearted comedy and fourth wallbreaking self-awareness. But it also has its fair share of deep and serious moments as well.
Suzanne Withem deserves high praise for her direction of the play. Her direction has a decisive energy which emerges in the constant movements of the actors, preventing the show from ever being static. Her staging is precise and utilizes the full space with the actors even getting up into the stands with the audience. Ms Withem has also done a sterling job leading her actors through this play as there isn’t a weak link in the lot.
Beau Fisher is quickly becoming one of my favorite performers to watch due to his naturalness and boisterous energy. He scores another hit with his take on Conrad. Fisher easily comes off as an innovator seeking to create new forms of artistic expression. He is also the tortured artist who loves Nina too much and is frustrated by the fact the Nina does not love him back to the same degree. Fisher skillfully vacillates between the emotional highs and lows of Conrad while deftly handling the character’s difficult wordplay. While his love for Nina is a bit smothering, it does pull at your heart as it is a genuine love from a man who has never really known love himself.
Raydell Cordell III anchors the show as Conrad’s best friend, Dev. Dev is the only truly likable character in the show. He’s also one of two characters who end up truly happy at the show’s end. Cordell brings a cute awkwardness to Dev with his pursuit of Mash and inability to say the right thing in a group setting. Yet, in one on one conversations, he proves himself to be an able listener, a wise advisor, and a rock of support.
Sonia Keffer gives an eye opening performance as Emma Arkadina, Conrad’s mother. Ms Keffer’s Emma is a slightly boozy, extremely cynical and successful actress who, like her son, doesn’t really understand love and happiness and readily admits to it. She is content to live a life being hated quietly and filling it with money and men. Emma does have a kind of caring for her son, but it never really germinated into love. Instead it takes the form of a territoriality as she will fiercely protect what belongs to her when she sees it threatened or hurt.
Alissa Hanish cuts a very pitiable figure as Nina, the seagull of the play. Hanish gives us a Nina who is a lost child who thinks she knows what she wants out of life, but when she gets what she thinks she wants, she learns that it was just poisoned fruit. She is easily swayed by the illusion of the surface and cannot see the truth below. Ms Hanish conveys these ideas not only through her delivery of the dialogue, but through her superior sense of movement. Through movement, Ms Hanish displays comedy with her moves during the performance event “We. Are. Here.”; confusion, love, and a desperate search in a prolonged sequence when she constantly kisses Conrad, but blindly searches for something greater; and a descent into madness when she collapses into hysterics at the play’s climax.
Potent supporting performances are also given by Michael Markey as the lonely Dr. Sorn; Aanya Sagheer as Mash who sings depressing songs inspired by her unrequited love for Conrad; and Kevin Anderson as the pretentious genius writer, Doyle Trigorin.
The sounds of John Gibilisco and the lights of Darrin Golden become supporting characters in the play as they had a crucial extra dimension. This is especially noticeable with the shadowy lights of Golden when the play veers into experimental performance art and Gibilisco’s mystical sound of the seagull.
The movement direction of Wai Yim adds a beautiful bit of art to the production while Lindsey Pape’s costumes suit the cotemporary feel of the show as the performers really seem as if they’re wearing their own clothes.
A couple of the actors needed to pump up the volume a bit, but all voices carried well and Jim Othuse’s simple set of a curtain and small stage lent itself well to the inherent creativity of the show.
In closing, all I can say is now you’ve heard about the bird and I’m telling you, man, that this bird is the word!
Stupid F@#!ing Bird plays at the Omaha Playhouse through Nov 12 at the Omaha Playhouse. Performances are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets cost $36 for adults and $22 for students. For tickets, contact the Playhouse at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com. Due to strong language and some mature themes, this show is not recommended for children. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.