“Stupid F* Bird,” onstage through June 19 at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town, confronts playgoers with a bold, irreverent and contemporary version of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” Playwright Aaron Posner, who also wrote “The Chosen,” an adaptation based on Chaim Potok’s 1967 novel of the same name and “My Name Is Asher Lev” (2009), based on Potok’s 1972 novel, premiered “Stupid F* Bird” in 2013 with the Wholly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington D.C., and it’s been performed across America since.
Directed by Rob Lutfy, “Stupid F* Bird,” features a complicated love story between an actress, an actor, his mother, and a renowned novelist. “It’s a play about love in all its forms — passionate, lustful, betrayed, Shakespearean,” Lutfy said.
The cast features Ro Boddie (Con), Karole Foreman (Emma), Francis Gercke (Trig), Walter Murray (Sorn), Brian Rickel (Dev), Rachel Esther Tate (Nina), and Jacque Wilke (Mash). Lutfy said that the cast is “like a family”; he went to high school and college with Boddie, and Tate, who was recommended by the playwright, is his partner of five years.
Rated R for suggestive themes, strong language, sexual content and nudity, the play doesn’t hide its irreverent nature. Each act is presented in a different style of storytelling. The characters are also characters in a play within the play. “They are ‘real’ people living the story of the play,” Lutfy said, explaining that the meta-theatrics have been one of the most challenging staging features.
Cygnet chose this play in line with an ongoing conversation with its audience about forms of storytelling. Lutfy said, “Early in the season our audiences saw Noel Coward’s ‘The Vortex,’ which Coward called his ‘attempt at Chekhov.’ We then took the torch farther by exploring the limits of form and naturalism in, ‘When the Rain Stops Falling.’ This was followed by ‘The Rocky Horror Show,’ which exemplified what makes live storytelling thrilling: the audience is here, now with us and is just as important to the art making as the actors onstage.
“This takes us to ‘Stupid F* Bird’ — new forms of storytelling, deconstruction, and the legacy of the second most produced writer behind Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov.”
The play’s deconstruction of “The Seagull” is an attempt to bring symbolism to the ground, and portray the simplicity of everyday living. “I get tired of the melodrama and symbolism that I see in so many Chekhov productions. Chekhov fought against meaning, he wanted only to present the messiness of life,” Lufty said.
However, Lufty explained that ingrained in its entangled storytelling, “Stupid F* Bird” is “purely” a love story. “Posner isn’t interested in black and white or any simplified way to label people. This play is about the mess of life and how important our day to day is to the inertia of our lives. These are real people with huge passions struggling with the ‘actually, actually’ of existence,” he concluded.
IF YOU GO: “Stupid F* Bird” runs through June 19 at Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs St. Tickets: start at $36. (619) 337-1525. cygnettheatre.com