Encore Michigan

Wayne State presents ‘Stupid F*cking Bird’ by Aaron Posner

Review March 11, 2018 David Kiley

DETROIT, Mich.–The theater should be restless. That’s the takeaway from Aaron Posner’s Stupid F*cking Bird now being presented by the theatre company at Wayne State University at the Hilberry Theatre.

An adaptation and homage of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” the story is about a group of family members and friends who need relationship traffic cops in their lives while they debate the state of theater. In Chekhov’s original, there is a neurotic young playwright named Treplev who speaks of the need to invent new forms of theater, stories presented in less predictable and conventional manners. In Posner’s story, this role is played through Conrad (James Kern,) a very angsty writer and son who radiates a kind of angry toxicity.

Conrad’s Mother Emma (Sarah Summerwell) is involved with a successful good looking playwright Doyle (Tobias Wilson) who is not only cool and smooth to the point of irritation, but Conrad’s love interest Nina (Wesley Cady) is really into Doyle, thinking him a genius. So, Poor Conrad has lost his mother and girlfriend to the same nemesis. There is tele-novella potential here, albeit Russian tele-novella.

Speaking of new forms, Stupid F*cking Bird employs some improv and breaking of the fourth wall amidst the arc of the story, as well as some songs performed. It’s a loose melange.

Jasmine Walker plays Masha, who secretly has a jones for Conrad (God help her), and then there is Conrad’s buddy Dev (Cody Robison) who pines for Masha to the point of waxing on about he feels all this passion in his thighs.

Posner’s inspiration here seems to be taking Chekhov at his word about breaking norms and forms and presenting theater in hopefully a fresher, more manic disturbing way in the hopes of creating something memorable, lasting, penetrating. Does he succeed? Admittedly, the title gets our attention when we buy tickets.

There is a bit of a play within the play as Conrad is writing a play called the name of our play here, and the actors know they are in a play.

Directed by Blair Anderson, the play is set, as the program says…”Wherever.”

The actors do a first rate job of delivering dissonant material. This is a far cry from “Les Mis” or “Death of a Salesman.” And that is a good thing. New forms should be created all the time like ice sheets falling away from the established ice sheets, allowed to float and change shape.

If there is a knock on the play, it is directed at Mr. Posner. Two hours and 20 minutes for this Bird including an intermission is excessive. It is a flabby script in places and it would be a service to theater-goers to trim about 20 minutes off it.

Click here for show days, times and details.


Posner’s ideas and his words land well, there are just too many of them for this fine troupe.