By Katie Freeman
I am the summer 2014 intern for The Theatre @ Boston Court. Here’s a link to tell you more about me. One of my first assignments as an intern was to read the script for Boston Court’s upcoming play, Stupid Fucking Bird, by Aaron Posner. Here are my thoughts as a member of the artistic community, as well as a member of Generation Y.
This play is an adaptation of The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov (or as the playwright labels it: “a sort-of adaptation”). Unless you are a theater person, you probably don’t know much about the playwright Anton Chekhov. However, for the purpose of reading my response, all you really need to know was that he was a Russian playwright in the 1800’s.
While reading the play, I found myself guffawing over the dialogue and how wonderfully terrible the characters are with handling hardships. They each lament over why they are unhappy and what they want, but can’t have. I especially appreciated the perspective in this line:
“Will anyone care in 100 years? About the muffins. Or the color of your kitchen cabinets. Or the relative success of your… backyard meta-theatrical skit.” – Trig, Stupid Fucking Bird
The frequent laughter this play provokes gives it a clear, separate identity from The Seagull. Posner takes Chekhov’s oh-so-carefully placed subtleties, and forces them out in the open in Stupid Fucking Bird.
What I thought the playwright captured very well was the constant discussion of existentialism in almost all of Chekhov’s plays. Characters asking, “Why am I here?” “What’s the point of living?” “What’s it all worth?” can get really annoying, really fast. What’s nice about Stupid Fucking Bird is that it makes fun of this relentless questioning, and it never answers these questions. Essentially, you as the audience member decides what the meaning of your life is. There is no all-encompassing meaning provided for you.
The main character in the play, Conrad, is the most wounded of the cast. Okay, to be fair, all of the characters are wounded for one reason or another, which is why they are easy to relate to. Personally, I like that the constant complaining is over-dramatized in this adaptation. For example, characters at one point stand facing the audience (Chorus Line fashion) and talk about their problems through repetition of the same phrases, to the effect of: “THIS REALLY SUCKS. MY LIFE IS HARD. WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN TO ME?”
The characters in the play deal with self-inflicted unhappiness while actively pursuing a sort of martyrdom by continually discussing their problems. They all expect things to happen for them, rather than making things happen for themselves. They go through the motions of living their lives, and when things don’t go their way, instead of finding an alternative solution, they sit there and pout and complain to anyone who will listen. This is an issue that is still relevant…I can’t tell you how many times I am told my generation has problems with standing on their own two feet. Or, is lazy when it comes to creating opportunities for themselves.
If Chekhov could conceive of people who deal with these character flaws back in the 1800’s…maybe it’s not just my generation that is plagued with being lazy and helpless.
Maybe the human experience is just too much for some people. I think this trait is exhibited in people of all age groups, since maturity has little to do with age.
Another aspect of Stupid Fucking Bird which makes it unique is the frequent shattering of the 4th wall. This makes it difficult to get into the story and suspend your disbelief, which is what American audiences are so used to. In fact, the audience is asked many times for advice regarding the events that unfold in the characters’ lives, in real-time. The jolting effect of being continuously brought out of the mentality our brains go into while watching a show is intentionally supposed to be uncomfortable.
If you end up watching the show feeling on edge, you’re probably doing it right.
The number one thing I took from this show is that there is not always a clear answer. For people who like to problem-solve (myself included), this is a tough pill to swallow.
Another audience tip: Don’t get on your phone immediately after the show goes to intermission and/or ends. One of the aspects of theater is that you get to observe a live experience with complete strangers, after which you have the opportunity to discuss and share ideas. I challenge you to take a few moments to either silently process it in your head, or to talk about it.
I realize I may have presented this play as bleak, but it is hilarious and handles the angst-y plot points with just the right amount of dark humor for comic relief. Let it affect you, and see where you end up. Your life may not be shaken to its core, but this is undoubtedly a great piece of theater. If anything, you will get a killer ab workout from laughing.