“Start the fucking play!” Absurd, tragic, and deeply impactful, Northern Essex Community College’s production of “Stupid Fucking Bird” had me hooked shortly after the first F-Bomb flew. I have always been a lover of well-timed dark comedy and the ensemble of this production was excellent in their execution. The absurd silliness and celebration within their performance, paired with the harsh reality of the play’s subject matter created a perfect balancing act which was able to exhibit the play’s messages without having to mope in eternal doom and gloom. Not to mention, the extensive interactive relationship between the actors and the audience, which ranged from audience call outs to an impromptu dance on stage, felt natural, not forced. I am typically someone who wants the actors to remain out of the audience and the 4th wall to remain sturdy and intact. However, I enjoyed the participatory nature of the show as it added a unique and unexpected quality to the production, allowing for the actor’s improv skills to be exhibited. The audience interaction also resulted in some of my favorite moments, for example Mash’s reluctant ukulele solos and witty berating of late audience members as they entered the theatre. The best part, you don’t have to know “The Seagull”, Chekhov’s original play, before entering the theatre to appreciate the artistic liberties playwright Aaron Posner has taken in his adaption. In fact, even if you have read or seen Chekhov’s iconic play, you are bound to be surprised and delighted in the action as it unfolds in “Stupid Fucking Bird”. Reply
“Start the fucking play!”
Absurd, tragic, and deeply impactful, Northern Essex Community College’s production of “Stupid Fucking Bird” had me hooked shortly after the first F-Bomb flew. I have always been a lover of well-timed dark comedy and the ensemble of this production was excellent in their execution. The absurd silliness and celebration within their performance, paired with the harsh reality of the play’s subject matter created a perfect balancing act which was able to exhibit the play’s messages without having to mope in eternal doom and gloom. Not to mention, the extensive interactive relationship between the actors and the audience, which ranged from audience call outs to an impromptu dance on stage, felt natural, not forced. I am typically someone who wants the actors to remain out of the audience and the 4th wall to remain sturdy and intact. However, I enjoyed the participatory nature of the show as it added a unique and unexpected quality to the production, allowing for the actor’s improv skills to be exhibited. The audience interaction also resulted in some of my favorite moments, for example Mash’s reluctant ukulele solos and witty berating of late audience members as they entered the theatre.
The best part, you don’t have to know “The Seagull”, Chekhov’s original play, before entering the theatre to appreciate the artistic liberties playwright Aaron Posner has taken in his adaption. In fact, even if you have read or seen Chekhov’s iconic play, you are bound to be surprised and delighted in the action as it unfolds in “Stupid Fucking Bird”.
If you’ve been too afraid to see The Seagull, or any other Chekov piece for that matter this is a wonderful alternative. Stupid Fucking Bird was an enjoyable performance that was not afraid to break the 4th wall. Sadly Northern Essex seemed to suffer in this foreign space. The lighting design and execution looked rather sloppy, and I consistently saw spotlights fading out before the full lights would come back on, creating a brief moment of unplanned confusion as the actors were all in the dark. The light plot also left actors in partial shadows that didn’t compliment the production, and at one point the actors were just in pure darkness running a scene for several minutes.
As for the actors, I must say that the Actor playing Mash stole the show for me. She had an immensely strong presence on stage, and was the most engaging with the audience, and I have to give her huge props for deciding on the fly to drop her out of tune ukulele for her first song and get the audience to clap to a simple beat. It kept the song from sounding bad and broke the ice with the audience very well. While everyone else held up, I sadly have to say that I felt Con was torn between two worlds of playing Campy and playing serious, and while he seems to be effective at both, his inconsistencies pulled me out of the piece several times.
I’d ultimately recommend the show, but it may not be for everyone. If you like your fourth wall intact then you may want to pass, but if you’re looking for an overall fun time then this is the show for you.
I don’t care how much you love Chekhov’s The Seagull, if you hate comedy and can’t handle a substantial amount of cursing- you are not ready to see Stupid Fucking Bird.
On Wednesday, January 30th, the Northern Essex Community College presented Stupid Fucking Bird to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Region 1. Playwright Aaron Posner truly reinvents the piece so that Stupid Fucking Bird, is much more than just a modern version of The Seagull. Even the title itself reveals the creative edge that Posner imposes throughout his adaptation. From beginning to end, the audience broke out into many cries of laughter due to the play’s mix of self-deprecation, dramatic personalities and sheer stupidity.
In many productions, it would be easy to confuse seven characters and their many different relationships. However, this is no such production. In Stupid Fucking Bird, Emma and Mash find themselves in fairly similar situations; they each chase after another man, knowing they could never be happy with the one who currently loves them. Yet never once throughout the play did I ever question who was who, because each character is so distinguished from one another. In terms of costuming, Emma’s flowing sundress contrasts easily to Mash’s all-black outfit that she wears to mourn her life. The actress who played Emma also had a bright voice, which reflected her character’s bubbly and hopefully personality. On the other hand, the actress who played Mash used a huskier voice and snarky attitude, since Mash is rather pessimistic. All of the actors, but particularly the one who played Mash, paid close body language and facial expressions to reflect what their character was thinking. Even when the attention was on other characters, the actress who played Mash made sure to roll her eyes and purse her lips as Mash became more frustrated.
One of the most impressive qualities of the actors is their ability to improve. Posner distinguishes Stupid Fucking Bird from the The Seagull, by breaking down fourth wall. The actors not only acknowledged the audience, but went so far to ask them questions. Whether the audience member was silent or said something crazy like “Get her pregnant!,” the actors made sure to draw a laugh out. On several occasions, Mash called out a group of people who were late to the show, taking advantage of this unplanned occurrence.
Posner uses a lot of cursing in the script, so that the characters seem like “one of us.” While this does help the audience to relate to the characters, and offers many comedic moments, the consistent swearing starts to feel redundant.
While Stupid Fucking Bird is definitely a comedy, Posner still intertwines different themes throughout the play. Posner uses Conrad to delve into how there is a lack on invention and creativity in today’s theatre (which is particularly ironic.) He also explores the different desires and expectations that people have in life, and what may conclude from these desires. In one scene, all of the characters are frustrated as they list the things most long for. Ultimately, none of them live the life they thought they would, because life can be so uncontrollable. Overall, Stupid Fucking Bird, is an engaging experience that will bring you laughter and remind you to live in the moment, because after all, “here we are.”
Stupid Fucking Bird
Reviewed by Dylan Bowden
“Thank you, Chekhov, and fuck you.”
Such were the words of a beautiful homage presented by Northern Essex Community College in a production that warmed my big, fat Russian heart.
“Stupid Fucking Bird” by Aaron Posner is a modern adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull”. Now, I’ve seen my share of Chekhov plays (it’s basically a requirement for anyone with a Russian-born parent) – but of course, I’m only human. And let’s face it: Chekhov can be a lot to process. Even so, I do appreciate the accurate representation of Russian life that can be found in a Chekhov play. And while I firmly believe that his plays can be translated and modernized without sacrificing their authenticity, I have not seen many adaptations of Chekhov that have very successfully accomplished this feat.
Northern Essex Community College’s production, I’m happy to report, is a fresh and lively exception. Good acting and strong direction – mixed with Aaron Posner’s unforgivably honest writing – made for an excellent production and performance.
The show opened with the angsty Mash (Gwynnethe Glickman), channeling the loneliness and despair of a thousand Russian hearts in her characterization. Glickman did not hold back in her performance, either; breaking the fourth wall to truly convey her angst, she scathingly referred to a group of latecomers who didn’t “care to show up on time.” Carlyle Bien-Aime offered a unique take on Con, which I thoroughly enjoyed: an innocent young man who stays innocent despite the dire situation that surrounds him, which he clearly communicated through a crushing monologue at the end of the production. Dierdree Glassford infused the role of Emma, the matriarch, with great conviction – I fell in love with her character just moments into the show. Joshua Schulz, Armando Belliard-Harmon, and Christian Doyle all gave excellent performances throughout the show as well.
“Stupid Fucking Bird” is unlike anything I have ever seen. It’s a play that’s uncompromisingly grounded in reality – every time you think you’re entering a new theatrical universe, you are forced to acknowledge that, “You are here.” In the face of all the injustices we see in our world daily, Northern Essex Community College offers us “Stupid Fucking Bird”, or “Bleakness wrapped up in a pretty pink bow,” or something we all need to see.
Stupid F*cking Bird
Angela Tricarico | University of New Haven
In Aaron Posner’s Stupid F*cking Bird, an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, there are plenty of fourth-wall breaks. In fact, it’s like the fourth-wall between actors and audience, between the world of the play and the one we live in, barely even existed at all in Northern Essex Community College’s production, which was remounted this week for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The play, which automatically lets audiences know it has a certain level of self-awareness, started when Conrad—Con, for short—walked on stage and said the play wouldn’t begin until the audience told them to “start the f*cking play.”
“Start the f*cking play,” echoed the audience, and from there, we were off; both actors and audience members, on a metatheatrical journey for the next two and a half hours, where everyone was forced to take a hard look at reality. “We are here,” the play reminds us. ‘Here’ could be defined as something completely different for every single person in the audience, but nonetheless the sentiment remains. For me, here took on two different meanings—physically, I was in the Tilden Studio Theater, but From beginning to end, characters experience highs and lows, heightened emotions, heartbreak, questions of existence, and moments of genuine hopelessness.
The script provides for all seven characters to have full arcs, and the sublime acting all around breathes life into them. A particular standout was Mash, who never let her character drop for even a second. Her biting lines paired with the actresses facial expressions, her beautiful singing voice paired with ironic lyrics about life and living, and body language and physicality all embodied Mash fully. Even when she was just in the background of a scene, she shined. Both Emma and Sorn are characters traditionally played by actors older than the other five characters, but both actors embodied the characters so well that the age difference still managed to come across. Con was also a standout, as he delivered some of the show’s most heartbreaking monologues and moments with such passion that it was easy to empathize with him and his pain.
The show fit the Tilden Studio Theater very well, making use of nearly every useable space there was. I particularly loved the way the stairs were utilized as entrances and exits more frequently than the wings of the stage. It really helped with feeling like the audience was right in there with the cast of seven. The set, though sparse, was made up entirely of useful pieces; six chairs and a cart that doubled as a platform, and more frequently, a bar.
Many theatergoers look to the theater as a form of escapism, but with Stupid F*cking Bird, it was impossible to escape the injustices of daily life or the small things in each of our lives that may be making us individually unhappy. Stupid F*cking Bird is a harsh dose of reality wrapped in escapism.
STUPID F*CKING BIRD presented by Northern Essex Community College
Review by Andrea Vargas – Rhode Island College
Stupid Fucking Bird is Super Fucking Amazing. If you hate Chekhov, then you will love this!
“Stupid Fucking Bird”, by American playwright Aaron Posner is an adaptation of The Seagull written by king of existentialism – Anton Chekov.
“Stupid Fucking Bird” reminds us that “We are here” and questions “why do we do what we do in the mundane day to day?” The cast does this in a mix of scripted, interactive/ audience participation, a touch of improv, and lots of fourth wall breaking. We are brought on the life journey of a total of seven characters whom are allegorical. It is possible that the audience sees themselves in, if not solely one person, but possibly a combination of these characters as they age and experience new things. While this show did have me feeling a bit depressed at points, it also had me feeling very empowered especially once connecting it to my own life. The character of Mash had me not only embracing my inner emo kid, but also reminded me that we deserve the love we let ourselves have as Mash only allowed herself to feel unrequited love when her other friend Dev was there to love her all along. Her character arc in particular had me on the edge of my seat and cheering for her the whole time. Her performance was so incredible that there were moments where I could feel the tension the character carried on their body, on my own skin. As an extra bonus, the performer has a lovely voice with a unique quality to it which could be compared to a mix of Lana Del Rey and Florence Welch. On the other side of the spectrum, we have my other favorite character, Dev, who reminded me of the young fool who starts off as a goofy but well-intentioned man, who grows in to a loving father, bringing words of wisdom when you least expect them Dev’s hilarious outlook on life released a lot of the dramatic tension which was made felt by some of the heavy moments in the show. While these two characters stuck out to me the most, the entire cast produced outstanding work!
The Lighting design had its stand out moments but there were a couple of sloppy spots. I will let that one slide due to this show being presented at a completely different venue than the home theater it was designed for. I am curious as to what it looked like originally. I am also curious if the original set was as minimalistic as the set presented here, which, may I add, fit the space well and didn’t take away from the acting which can sometimes happen in small theaters like this one. They even paid homage to Chekov himself with a portrait of him hanging upstage center for all to see. I thought costumes were lovely and brought each of the characters to life but didn’t indicate a specific time period, which gives this show a timeless feel. The sound design was well done but was just as minimal as the set. The sound designer chooses to stay away from an abundance of transition music between most scenes. I do however respect the choice to not do so, considering that we were constantly reminded that this show is “real life” and not just a story.
All in all, Northern Essex Community College put on a “fucking amazing” production of Posner’s modern take on Chekov’s existential story telling. Direction by Brianne Beatrice and Sarah Durning had me feeling a full range of emotions. If you get me leaving a theater with my heart racing, then you have done something right!
Stupid Fucking Bird
Review by Jhada-Ann Walker
“Stupid Fucking Bird”, is a dramatic mixture of interlude and satire, performed by Northern Essex Community College. Written by American playwright, Aaron Posner, the play is based on the contemporary adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull”. The play speaks out on present millennial’s approach to the world we live in. It expounds upon the various lifestyles of different individuals whether the they are sad because of rejection, weakness and idolatry.
It is very relatable as the live interactions with the audience forms a connection to the play, the direct speech and the scattering of the actors in the audience allows for self reflection when the actors stare you right in the eye and calls out your flaws. On that note don’t be late! The theater space is just perfect as it creates a dynamic and friendly atmosphere with the stage in the center. Though the music and the sound effects were just right, the lighting could have been more effective by intensifying it at times to build more on the mood and tone throughout the performance.
Seven different characters were showcased by seven consistent, strong, convincing actors who delivered the play with much energy. An outstanding character is Mash, because of her vibrant, attention grabbing and witty personality played well by the actress. The production was clear and I loved the informative demonstrations and movement on stage and in the audience by the choice of the director. One thing that stood out for me was when the entire audience sang “Happy birthday”, because it just showed me the common things we do as humans. “Stupid Fucking Bird” is a mirror held up to reality.
Jamie Roberts Final Review of: “Stupid F*king Bird”
An adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull”
By Aaron Posner
Northern Essex Community College at KCACTF Region 1
January 30th, 2019
Do not be late to Northern Essex Community College’s “Stupid F*king Bird” at the Kennedy Centre American College Theatre Region 1 Festival as the actors are not hesitant to call you out. This contemporary metaplay explores Conrad’s (Con’s) life as an unhappy aspiring playwright who is blinded by the falsities of “ love” in finding his life purpose. “Stupid F*king Bird” delved heavily into the themes of true love, living a fulfilled life, and happiness vs. unhappiness.
The play began to captivate me in acts two and three when the intensity in character choices correlated with the script. In act one, it seemed like characters came to conclusive states without continual and motivational growth. Connie (Carlyle Bien-Aime) is madly in love with Nina (Aileen Corniel), who does not reciprocate these feelings. Bien-Amie and Corneil had a great scene in the second half when Con’s insecurity was shown in his persistent questions about their love. Heartfelt eyes and a puzzled forehead or short tight body language, both the actor and actress took time expressing these different physical and emotional dimensions of their characters throughout this scene. Gwynnethe Glickman as Mash had such a captivating quality in her tone of voice in which she activated her lower register with a raspy tone that compelled me to listen to her more attentively. When Mash became frustrated I had an inability to take my attention away from her as she was always present as an actress, especially in her voice.
Posner’s adaptation touches on similar themes of Chekhov’s “The Seagull” yet presented with contemporary twists such as racism, contemporary theatre, and the war on…well the war on basically everything. The characters in “Stupid F*king Bird” are solid, real characters that make it easy to emphasize with. All characters were different, yet had common mirrored feelings such as being unhappy in love and life, loving with no love returned, and reasoning why people should not judge someone’s past. Though it could be Chekhov’s influence, the script over feeds us in themes and metaphors that prevent us from personally coming to the revelation. Nina’s metaphor of being the seagull was evident from Con’s actions before the end of act one. There was no need for her monologue in the latter half of the play that kept elaborating how she was the seagull that he killed. Con’s ending is the only one we are not allowed to know of, yet this play is Con’s story. “Stupid F*king Bird” leads that many encounter unhappiness in finding life purpose, making us more alike than we think.
Stupid Fucking Bird was, quite frankly, not the easiest piece to take seriously. There were some great moments amongst it’s actors, but the interaction of the characters with the audience was incredibly distracting, and tended to be taken advantage of by audience members who wanted to have their second in the spotlight. While the story itself was easy to follow, and the technical aspects rather minimalistic, the overall piece felt incredibly long for such a basic story. The overarching theme of the piece was “life sucks and then ya die”; simple, yet relatively captivating when done right. For a show with only 7 characters, it was crucial for each actor to pull their weight when it came to entertaining their audience all the way through the piece, and these actors certainly did so.
Unfortunately, the biggest draw back of this piece was the audience’s reaction to any commentary made by the actors on present day politics or general happenings, which wasn’t the actor’s faults, but the whooping and hollering for several minutes took away from some of the strongest moments of the piece. However, the moments that weren’t absorbed by the audience, tended to be rather moving. Rare moments between Conway and Nina, Emma and Doyle, Dev and Mosh, were incredibly impactful. Many audience members were able to feel Nina’s sadness, or Conway’s pain, and they seemed to form meaningful relationships with the characters.
While this piece had its ups and downs, including the lack of program and/or trigger warning for its use of gunshots and themes of suicide, it was a relatively basic piece brought to life by colorful young actors. That in itself was refreshing. Ultimately, while I can’t say it’s my personal favorite, the piece itself was portrayed well by it’s cast. It moved along, rarely dragging, and had a lot that it’s audience could relate too. Needless to say, the work this cast put in to making this piece of modernized Chekhov work for such a youthful audience, did not go unnoticed.