Providence’s Wilbury Theatre Group is staging another provocative drama, filled with humor and music. Rhode Island Public Radio’s theater critic Bill Gale, says the show has something to say.
Despite that somewhat sophomoric title, this work eventually turns out to make a point or two. In a snap-fire three act production, in about 2 hours, it manages to take a look at a group of arts-world folks. It peels away the covering, lets us in the audience see their troubles, exterior and internal. And perhaps even offers us a chance to think about our own lives.
Written by Aaron Posner, a veteran of the national theater scene who now works largely in Washington D.C. “Stupid F---ing Bird” is what Posner calls a “sort of” adaptation of “The Seagull,” the classic late 19th century Russian masterpiece by Anton Chekhov.
You’ll perhaps remember that “The Seagull” shows us a group of Russians trapped by snow, and trapped inside by all their fears and ills. They talk, and talk, and it’s all subtext wandering its way to some kind of meaning.
“Stupid F---ing Bird,” as you might expect, is a whole lot more American. It’s loud and rude, and rowdy. Seven folks kvetching like mad, and not doing much about it at all. Directed by the veteran Mark Pecham with force and feeling, this yank version, at first, has you thinking, do I really need this cavalcade of complainers? These well-off weepers? We are “cosmically screwed,” one of them whines.
But as the play, balanced with fun and even wit, goes along, you begin to look at their anxiety and fear and self-consciousness with some insight. I could be little like that sometime, you may think.
On a beat up, just grungy enough set by John Christofferon, “Stupid F---ing Bird” has each character expose their fear, joys, and uncertainty directly to the audience. They even sometimes ask the ticket buyers for their opinion of things.
“Stupid F---ing Bird” has a number of first-rate performances. Melissa Penick is emotionally honest and powerful as a middle-aged woman hoping, then finally demanding, that her famous-writer husband – who’s nearly ready to walk off with a much younger female – come to his senses, and to his own best interest.
Rachel Dulude brings the show’s songs to life with humor and insight, and the veteran Vince Petronio is careful and honest about showing the trials of his aging doctor character. And Josh Short reaches sets of fear and power, sometimes at once.
In the end “Stupid F---ing Bird” is connected to “The Seagull” in a number of ways, moving well beyond the obvious dissimilarity between 19th century Russians and 21st century Americans. It has, for one thing, a more hopeful ending, I’d say.
Now, if we could just get them to change to title. Not much chance of that, though.
“Stupid F---ing Bird” continues at the Wilbury Theatre Group in Providence through February 13th. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.