Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Stupid Fucking Bird (Encore Run)
Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company is offering audiences a second chance to see its rapturous production of Stupid Fucking Bird, which received Helen Hayes Awards as Outstanding Resident Play and the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical since its premiere in 2013. Director Howard Shalwitz has brought back his entire seven-member original cast, whose individual and ensemble performances are richer than ever.
Playwright Aaron Posner used Anton Chekhov's The Seagull as his starting point: both plays consider the nature of existence, love, and the role of art in understanding life. Posner's version is much more profane (see the title) and eliminates the fourth wall completely, as when the young playwright Con (Brad Koed) announces that he can see what the audience is doing.
The characters are Chekhovian in spirit if modern in expression. Con is the son of Emma (Kate Eastwood Norris), a commercially successful actress who finds her son's theatrical experiments ponderous and adolescent. Emma's lover, Doyle Trigorin (Cody Nickell), is an author who knows his work isn't as good as his readers think it is. Nina (Katie deBuys) loves Con and loves acting, but she's drawn to the worldly Doyle. Around the edges are Sorn (Rick Foucheux), a disillusioned doctor and Emma's older brother; Mash (Kimberly Gilbert), a Goth who expresses her hopeless love for Con through chipper songs accompanied by a ukulele ("Don't judge," she tells anyone who hears her sing); and Dev (Darius Pierce), who knows that Mash will never love him but keeps trying to get her attention.
The interplay among these actors shimmers with heartbreak and irony, but also sparkles with flashes of humor. Many of the most captivating moments are the less obvious ones: the way sneaky little expressions play across Pierce's face, for example, or the elegiac tone of Foucheux's monologue.
As a parallel to Con's attempts to break out of antiquated theatrical forms and make a statement, scenic designer Misha Kachman offers unexpected twists in each of the three acts. Colin K. Bills' lighting design incorporates both the everyday and the fantastic, while Laree Lentz's costumes delineate the characters who wear them: sleek and luxurious for Emma, thrown-together for Mash.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company