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STUPID FUCKING BIRD has American Rep back flying high

THE BASICS: STUPID FUCKING BIRD, a 2013 play by Aaron Posner, presented by American Repertory Theater of WNY, directed by Michael Lodick, starring Connor Graham, Emily Yancey, Candice Kogut, Rick Lattimer, Diane DiBernardo, Thomas LaChiusa, and Scot Kaitanowski opened October 19 and runs through November 11, ONLY on Thursdays and Fridays at 8 at “The 330 Performance Space,” 330 Amherst Street (adjacent to The Sportsmens Tavern) (697-0837).  www.artofwny.org Beer, soda pop, and wine available. Runtime: Two hours with one intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  Based on Russian writer Anton Chekhov’s 1896 play THE SEAGULL, STUPID FUCKING BIRD uses the same characters. Here’s the summary: Dev loves Mash (say “mosh”), but Mash loves Con, but Con loves Nina, but Nina loves Trigorin, but Trigorin is in a relationship with Con’s mother, Emma. Ain’t nobody happy. Oh, and Sorn isn’t in love with anybody, and that bums him out, too.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: American Repertory Theater of Western New York plays are always dark, angsty affairs and sometimes in their dark, black box theater that makes for a long evening. But when everything clicks, and it does in this production, ART/WNY is so impressive that the only downside is the music pounding through stage right from The Sportsmens Tavern.

Could I imagine that I was seeing this at the vaunted Shaw Festival with their impeccable production values? And I thought, yes… yes, I could.

So, several times on opening night, as the cacophony from next door became tiresome, I tried an experiment: Could I imagine that I was seeing this at the vaunted Shaw Festival with their impeccable production values? And I thought, yes… yes, I could. So that’s what I did. With the frequent breaking of the fourth wall and mild audience involvement, this play would fit Shaw Artistic Director Tim Carroll’s mission to a tee (hint, hint TC).

Also, kudos to Thomas and Matthew LaChiusa for both creative use of the square footage allowed and clever set design. Even with the entire cast on stage, the small area seemed limitless.

SPOILER PARAGRAPH: Con, the struggling young playwright, is in despair that he is not Trigorin, the famous author. While Trigorin’s plays might be artistic crap, his career is indeed successful. What’s worse, Con’s mother, Emma, critical of her son, is enamored with Trigorin and his plays. And, unkindest cut of all, it’s obvious that Nina looks at Trigorin the way that Con wants her to look at him. If there isn’t a Taylor Swift song about all of this, there should be. So, Con tries to shoot himself. He does succeed in shooting a seagull, which he presents as a gift to Nina (does this guy know how to charm a girl or what?) but, see, the seagull is symbolic of Nina, and second act Nina is basically a zombie (walking dead). END OF SPOILER PARAGRAPH.

I must say that director Michael Lodick has assembled one really good-looking cast of beautiful women and handsome men, with Connor Graham as Con, Rick Lattimer as Dev, Thomas LaChiusa as Trigorin, and, Scot Katianowski as Sorn. Diane DiBernardo is Emma, Candice Kogut is Mash, and Emily Yancey is Nina. Good looks are one thing, but talent is there as well. Having seen many of these actors and actresses recently in other roles, I was mightily impressed with their ability to get inside the BIRD characters. I’m telling you, this is one helluva production.

Photo credit: ART/WNY | Pictured L-R characters Trigorin, Emma, Nina, Dev, Con, Mash, Sorn

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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