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Giving Chekov the bird

IPFW’s comedy Stupid ------ Bird sinks its talons into The Seagull

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2017-02-21


If playwright Aaron Posner has ever heard the phrase “respect your elders,” he doesn’t seem to have taken it very much to heart.

More accurately, judging by his comedy Stupid ----- Bird, Posner seems to have done what many birds seem to do to the monuments we build for our revered institutions and visionary leaders…

Stupid ----- Bird makes its Fort Wayne debut on February 17 in a production by the IPFW Department of Theater. As director Jeff Casazza writes in his notes, one of the benefits of having a university theater department in your hometown is that audiences can “experience some of the most contemporary theatre being performed today.”

And indeed, by the standards of theater, Stupid ------ Bird is a fledgling just barely out of the nest. Making its debut in 2013, Posner’s comedy won the Charles McArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical the following year; by then, it was already becoming a favorite among university drama programs and edgier regional theater groups looking for an alternative to the same old, same old.

Few things garner the enthusiasm of theater aficionados more than an irreverent take on a well-known and respected classic. Stupid ------- Bird’s target is Anton Chekov’s The Seagull, and if the title doesn’t give you enough of a clue, Stupid is more irreverent than most. In fact, it pummels the source material with such glee — and kicks around many of theater’s tropes and conventions in the process — that it makes you question the long-standing theory that in order to truly satirize something, you need to have a deep and abiding love for it in the first place.

And that’s good news for audiences, since no knowledge or familiarity of The Seagull is required to enjoy Stupid ------ Bird. From the director’s notes: “(The comedy)… is a combination of extreme silliness and searing insight that not only makes Stupid ----- Bird engrossing, but also emotionally resonant in a startling sort of way. Posner has taken Chekhov’s classic and run it through a post-modern, post-theatrical shredder taking the actors and audience on a wild and crazy ‘meta-theatrical’ ride.”

Stupid ----- Bird concerns the romantic and emotional entanglements among a group of family members and their friends gathered at a large beach house. Emma (Karyn Brumbaugh), a famous diva who is not about to relinquish the spotlight, is surrounded by Sorn (Vince Rainelli), her genial doctor brother, and her son Conrad (Freddy Fuelling), a tortured artist who demands too much from the world and gives little in return. Emma’s proud and pompous lover Trigorin (Evan Hart) is tempted by the love of Con’s life, the ambitious, but soon to be tragic Nina (Brooke O’Mara), while timid Dev (Cameron Tolliver) swoons for Goth girl Mash (Alayna Thornton), who channels her depression by writing and singing upbeat ukulele tunes about the harshness of life and love.

To be fair to The Seagull, that play was also partially a commentary on art and the impulses and motivations — not always “pure” — that lead to its creation. Stupid ----- Bird amps that up to the extreme. It’s meta-theater, where the actors draw attention to the fact that they’re in a play and that they’re performing as characters, and undermining the tropes and conventions of theater. It’s a concept that modern audiences are pretty familiar with — anyone who’s seen an episode of Arrested Development, just to name one example, can appreciate it — and Stupid ----- Bird takes full advantage of it.

From the director’s notes: “while the characters in Stupid ----- Bird may not be the most likable characters (Chekhov’s weren’t either), you’ll never, ever be bored by them. From the beginning they fill the stage with bursts of energy and enthusiasm through their dialogue, which is filled with hilarious lines, critiquing each other and the play they’re in… It will give you a refreshing look at how theatre embraces our world today.”

IPFW Department of Theater presents Stupid ------ Bird

Williams Theater
Fridays, February , 16 and 24 at 8 PM
Thursday February 23 at 8 PM
Saturdays, February 18 and 25 at 8 PM
Sunday, February 19 at 2 PM (sign language interpreted performance)

Tickets: $5 IPFW Students/ High School Students/Children Under 18; $16 Adults; $14 Seniors/Faculty/Staff/Alumni; $12 Groups of 10 or More; $12 Other College students with ID

Children under 6 will not be admitted.

IPFW Box Office

Purchase Tickets Online at ipfw.edu/tickets

Purchase Tickets by Phone or in Person
260-481-6555
TTD: 260-481-4105
Box office located in the Gates Athletic Center, Room 126. Open Monday – Friday, 12:30 – 6:30 p.m.

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