Quill’s ‘Stupid Fu**king Bird’ explores the meaning of theatre, relationships with our moms
Stupid Fucking Bird sees the Richmond Triangle Players theatre transformed into a metatheatrical funhouse, playing on the audiences emotions and connections to one another as much as the players do wreck each other on stage.
With several interweaving stories, this production opens with the young playwright Con (Chandler Hubbard) as he premieres a “performance piece” in the backyard of his famous-actress mother, Emma (Katie McCall). Also in attendance is his mother’s famous writer boyfriend, Sorn (David Bridgewater), his good friend Dev (Jeff Clevenger), Dev’s reluctant girlfriend Mash and his uncle Trig (Jeremy Morris). Con’s girlfriend Nina (McLean Jesse) stars in the small performance but before long Emma breaks down the show much to Cons dismay.
What unfolds is part love triangle, and part self-exploration, as the characters realize they love or hate or love to hate each other.
McCall’s portrayal of Emma expertly reminded me of the worst kind of mother- the kind we selfishly remember stifling our own creative ideas at a young age while setting exceptions unreasonably high. Her on-stage banter with Hubbard as Con often made me wince as I remembered the fights I played out in my own youth.
As the drama builds the interaction between other characters – with Mash’s lovelorn feelings for Con, and Nina love with herself or some more famous version of herself, etc. – it’s easy to realize the play’s author, Aaron Posner, saw each character as a part of his own mind and therefore a part of every audience member.
And this dark reminder of our own selfish dreams (and the ability we have to push others out of the way in search of a better life) spirals out of control in proper-dramatic fashion.
I laughed at parts of Stupid Fucking Bird. Or I welled up and wondered if some of the lines being spoken came from my own internal dialogue as I continue my ride on this 3rd planet around the sun.
Sure, there were flairs of the overly-dramatic. The “play-within-a-play” theme left metaphors hanging on the wall, or on the trees strewn through the audience. But heavy-handed storytelling was met with great performance and executed with power and emotion.
The play rails about new forms of theatre, and finds itself interacting with the audience in the hopes of breaking down a fourth wall. Whether or not this succeeds is up for debate, but for me it was a bit heavy-handed and obvious; a neat trick to involve and audience but it almost broke the mood more often than it lightened it.
As Director Jon Kretzu told us last week, Stupid Fucking Bird is inspired by Chekhov’s classic play, The Seagull, and this modern retelling successfully re-imagines “the eternal struggle between artists and those who both inspire and are destroyed by them.” There’s little room for consistent emotion as tears and laughter are often intertwined so fast it’s hard to find stable footing – for better or worse.
Timely references helped lighten the somber mood, but in the end I left RTP with more questions than answers.
Are we really here? Is anybody ever really there? Does anyone really love anybody? Stupid Fucking Bird asks a lot of those who attend – do you have the gall to find out what’s holding you back and what those around you really think?
Find out as the play runs through 1/30 at RTP.
“A trip to an often forgotten time and place.”May 18, 2017
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