‘Stupid F***ing Bird’ A Challenging Chekhov Spoof (3 Stars)

“Stupid F***ing Bird” Written by Aaron Posner; Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques; Presented by The Apollinaire Theatre Company at The Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet Street, Chelsea, MA. Performances through April 26th.

Here’s an idea for a great theatre-filled weekend. Start by seeing Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull at The Huntington Theatre and then grab tickets for Stupid F***ing Bird at The Chelsea Theatre Works. The former is getting rave reviews and the latter will be even more enjoyable after witnessing the original from which it is “sort of adapted”. If you’re already familiar with Chekhov’s ground-breaking 19th-century classic, then just join The Apollinaire Theatre Company on the third floor of The Chelsea Theatre Works for their take on the brash, edgy work by Aaron Posner.

The trip to The Chelsea Theatre Works is in itself pretty interesting for those who have never been there before. With no public parking areas I was a bit nervous to see that “on street parking” was the only option recommended. But there seemed to be plenty the night we went and I suspect it is always easy to park close by. Once parked, we (and a few other theatre-going groups) then walked right by the place at least once. After a quick re-orientation at the friendly nearby Chelsea Police station we realized the sign on the building was high above us and it was dark, hence the confusion on our part. We then found ourselves climbing three flights of stairs to the theatre area. You can take the handy elevator, but don’t. Instead give yourself enough time to stop at the second floor landing and be sure to chat with the wonderful house manager, Ida Rudolph who herself has been an actor in many Apollinaire Theatre Productions. She was in fact the subject of the 24-hour play “Chelsea Girl” and she loves to share a few of her humorous anecdotes about growing up in Chelsea. The theatre has a nice old-timey feel with its high metal ceiling and great views from any of the comfortable seats. Seating was General Admission for this show and drinks were available at a small bar and could also be brought in to the show.

Just as Chekhov’s work brought new elements to theatrical performance (with mixed reception) so too does “Stupid F***g Bird” have its quirky elements that may take some getting used to. I must confess to being a bit put off by the start of the play. Hint: YOU can be the one to tell them to start the play when you’re done watching them stretch and warm up before the show, seemingly oblivious to the audience, or the time. Before long though, I was being drawn into the action as the actors often stepped out of their roles to pose questions and address the audience directly. Posner’s work is perceptive as well. He takes on a number of topics with unerring accuracy, taking aim at the relationship of actor to audience, the state of live theatre today, or the artist’s view of his own work vis-a-vis the audiences take on it.

Don’t despair if your knowledge of 19th century Russian dramatists is somewhere between limited and null. The play can be enjoyed as is, with any knowledge of The Seagull just a helpful counterpoint to this play. For those more familiar with Chekhov, the characters in Stupid F***g Bird have names and bios quite similar to the original and you won’t have trouble matching them up to Chekhov’s well-known work. The structure is also patterned after the original with the first act quite funny, as personalities and relationships are laid out with anticipation of the upcoming havoc. The second act then suddenly goes a bit serious – compared to the first act anyway – and my date confessed enjoying the first, lighter act more than the next two.

The characters are humorous archetypes that are easily recognizable. Young Conrad as the iconoclastic rebel playwright composing plays (or “Site-specific Events” as he refers to them) that infuriate his actress mother, Emma, who takes his works as an “obvious” (to her) insult. Nina, the naive ingenue loved by Conrad but smitten by Trig the famous writer.

The actors were all capable and very enjoyable, with Brooks Reeves bringing goofy likeability to his role as “Dev” (Medvedenko, the teacher, in The Seagull). Diego Buscaglia was spot on as the snearing, unloved son, urgent and dark and bringing a modern punk feel to the role. Kevin Cirone as Trig and Jeanine Frost as Emma were perfect in their roles as famous writer and aging actress.

Visit the surprising theatre space at The Chelsea Theatre Works for this entertaining play “sort of adapted” from The Seagull. Nudity and strong language abound so leave the kids at home. For more info go to: http://www.apollinairetheatre.com/tickets/tickets.html