BWW Reviews: Boston Court Scores a Bullseye With Their West Coast Premiere of STUPID F**KING BIRD
Chekhov aficionados open to the humanizing of his high-brow archetypes will delight in playwright Aaron Posner's smartly written and irreverent take on Anton Chekhov's classic The Seagull. As briskly directed by Michael Michetti, the first act whizzes by with the prerequisite introductions and conflicting relationships identified, eliciting loads of laughter and unexpected audience interactions. Michetti adroitly navigates his talented cast of seven through a deceptively whimsical opener to a number of devastating incidents. Michetti, also The Theatre @ Boston Court's co-artistic director, makes the tightrope balancing of the off-the-cuff quips to the high dramatics work ever so breathtakingly fluid.
Six of these characters make up a daisy-chain, if you will, of unrequited love. Dev's in love with Mash, who's obsessed with Conrad, who's infatuated with Nina, who worships Doyle (the lover of Conrad's mom Emma). The seventh-Eugene, Emma's older brother, just observes.
Will Bradley; as Conrad, the tortured, struggling auteur and son of successful actress Emma; deftly shoves his angst and self-pity down the audience's throat, then charismatically breaks the fourth wall to make sure the audience approves of the theatrics he is performing. Bradley, and others, frequently step out of their characters to address the audience commenting on the plot's goings-on. It works! It's endearing because Bradley's endearing. Bradley masters the sometimes-wordy monologues Conrad spews, giving them as much clarity as a crazy and self-involved artist can ever offer.
Bird begins after an audience member shouts (as instructed by Conrad), "Start the fucking play!" Conrad gets everyone together in his mother's backyard to present his newly written performance piece "Here We Are." As Nina, Conrad's muse and star of this solo show; Zarah Mahler projects the naivety of an eager, newbie, not-so-good actress. When she learns that Doyle, the writing idol of her dreams, will be attending, Nina's beside herself. Despite the fact that this writer happens to be Conrad's mother's lover, Nina flirts shamelessly with him.
Matthew Floyd Miller, as the celebrated author Doyle, persuasively gives off the appropriate air of an accomplished writer who somehow hasn't sold himself out.
Adam Silver nails his role of Dev, the love-struck, poor, but eternally optimistic friend of Conrad. Besides bringing welcomed comic relief to this angst-filled drama, Silver represents the voice of reason and reality-to those who'll listen to him.
As the always dressed-in-black Mash, the objection of Dev's unreciprocated affections; Charlotte Gulezian readily anguishes to the max as her feelings for Conrad go ignored. Gulezian also has a way with the ukulele. (Her ukulele duet with Silver's quite sweet.)
Amy Pietz, essaying Conrad's mother Emma, revels with her droll diva retorts while occasionally, actually displaying her suppressed maternal instincts.
Realization of Conrad's suicide attempt, which ended Act One, places a pall on the second act. Actions and energies don't get revved up until Emma's kitchen scene with her brother Eugene. Then, after Emma catches Doyle kissing Nina, Pietz' Emma erupts, igniting the entire theatre space with her explosive dynamics with Miller's Doyle. Pietz exposes all of herself (both emotionally and physically) pleading, begging, rationalizing with Doyle not to leave her. Absolutely stunning in this scene's rawness and exposure. Brava, Mz. Pietz!!!
The always reliable Arye Gross easily inhabits his role of Emma's older brother Eugene. A doctor by trade, Eugene's accustomed to making other people well and happy. Not until he's the recipient of his 60th birthday party, does Eugene finally receive centerstage focus from his family. When Eugene shouts out, "How do you really feel?" the others react totally amazed at Eugene's seemingly uncharacteristic outburst. Eugene's similar to Mr. Cellophane in the musical Chicago. Always there for others, he'll ask, "How are you?" but never gets asked in return. Very subtle telling in the first act; instead of simply watching his nephew's new play a few feet in front of him, Eugene watches through this camera lens recording it. Eugene observes life from the sidelines, as he always does. No unrequited love for the single Eugene. When all characters state what they individually want, Eugene responds, "A hug... that last for months."
The combined technical elements greatly augment the changes in tone from whimsy to modern-day Chekovian seriousness. Scenic designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz makes great versatile use of platforms, panels, and crates, all made of compressed particle board, These pieces, individually and collectively, morph from fishing dock to backyard stage; from inconspicuous walls to video backdrops; from in-the-background containers to a previously hidden, completely detailed 1950's kitchen. Sean Cawelti's integral projection designs define Conrad's new play-within-a-play with not-so-subtle images of Emma screened on Nina's white gown; while his various video imageries of trees and birds (possibly seagulls) play up the whimsy of the Chekov analogies.
The Theatre @ Boston Court co-produced this well-done Bird with Circle X Theatre Co.