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Stupid Fucking Bird

Aaron Posner's ingenious reconception of The Seagull accomplishes what even the best Chekhovian productions and adaptations often fail to do: show us why the revered Russian playwright saw his plays as comedies.

Luke Sorge as Con
Luke Sorge as Con
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Posner's inventive approach places Chekhov's story in contemporary America, with the characters—modeled on the originals or subtle variations thereof—voicing their worldviews in colloquial terms. All this while throwing late 19th century Russian reserve and gentrification to the wind, with each other and with the audience, as they insistently open the fourth wall to challenge us on various questions, such as the effectiveness of the theatre in bringing about personal and collective transformation.

Whle Chekhov and Ibsen are generally credited with the creation (or at least the elevation) of dramatic realism, in Chekhov's case, one can also clearly see in The Seagull the germination of the theatre of ideas, which later came to fruition with Shaw. Posner's characters relish these intellectual skirmishes, leveraging our all-too-common incivility to further amplify the grievances of the Chekhov's original antagonists. Posner adds further fluorishes by filling the play with breathtaking monologues that breathe new life into Chekhov's observations and importunings.

Brian Gregory Shea as Trig and Jamie Rebekah Morgan as Nina
Brian Gregory Shea as Trig
and Jamie Rebekah Morgan as Nina
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Front and center in this emotional merry-go-round is Con (Luke Sorge), an aspiring playwright hopelessly in love with Nina (Jaimie Rebekah Morgan), whose rejection leads him to see life as meaningless. Sorge seizes the bull by the horns with Con's disarmingly blunt appraisals of all participants, particularly his mother, Emma (Diana Dresser), her husband, Trig (Brian Gregory Shea), and himself, as well as sparring and improvising with ticket holders, much to everyone's delight.

Bob Buckley as Sorn and Rebecca Remaly as Mash
Bob Buckley as Sorn
and Rebecca Remaly as Mash
Photo: Michael Ensminger
With a deft display of Emma's razor sharp repartee and operatic largesse, Dresser shows us exactly from where Con gets his acid tongue and dramatic hyperbole, dishing it back to Con and reining in her husband, Trig, a middle-brow writer with a wandering eye for Nina. Shea brings a suave, well-tempered balance to Trig, as he both pursues Nina and draws her to him. When Emma discovers the two of them on the road to consummation, Dresser shows us the vulnerable side of Emma in a heart-stopping, last-ditch monologue to save her marriage—putting Morgan's arc as Nina into precipitous flight, much as the seagull itself, soaring with idealism and hope before a plummeting loss.

Ian Anderson as Dev
Ian Anderson as Dev
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Chekhov heaps comedy upon this star-crossed tale by arranging a circular set of longings: Con for Nina; Nina for Trig; Mash (Rebecca Remaly) for Con; Dev (Ian Anderson) for Mash; Emma for Trig; Trig for himself. Remaly is exquisite as a Goth-inspired Mash, her lovely voice singing hilarious and biting melodies of love and loss, accompanying herself on the ukelele (music by James Sugg, lyrics by Posner). Anderson—as the school teacher, Dev, the endearing fool on a ship of foolish egos—brings a sweet, equanimious disposition and comic relief to these histrionic proceedings. Sorn (Bob Buckley), a mash-up of Chekhov's Sorin and Dorn, Emma's brother and a kindly old doctor in deteriorating health, serves a warm measure of wry, elder wisdom that is foolishly disregarded within this emotionally wrought circle.

Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's production of Aaron Posner's Stupid Fucking Bird, sort of adapted from Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, runs through April 5th at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder. For tickets: 303-321-5925 or betc.org.

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