By Bob Evans
Known to push the envelope, Kansas City, Missouri’s Unicorn Theatre presents Aaron Posner’s parody of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” but Posner’s play is entitled “Stupid Fucking Bird.”
Confused? “Bird” a modern parody of the Russian playwright’s classic tale, takes Chekhov’s standard, cardboard characters mired in self-pity and presents them as comedic characters in a modern setting. As the play develops, the comedy continues as it also continues to involve the audience from the opening request for the audience to demand the start of the play, through an improv segment, to the climactic end where the characters’ futures are explained.
Billed as a co-production with UMKC’s students finishing their MFA degree, the show pairs UMKC students with seasoned, local professionals, all under the direction of esteemed professor and director Theodore Swetz. In his final year with UMKC, his students are the final class to finish their degrees under Swetz’ care.
The “Bird” provided the opportunity for the MFA students to work with both their teacher (as their director), local Equity actors, the most daring of KC venues, The Unicorn Theatre and in the process present a totally fresh, bold play never staged in Kansas City before. From the audience, the camaraderie among the actors created electricity. Opening night gave the actors enthusiastic support for the play that breaks the “fourth wall,” bringing the audience into the play by keeping them focused on the dialogue while awaiting opportunities to interject their words or thoughts into the play.
Even though the play is a parody of Chekhov’s work, his depth of emotional range for his characters bursts through as the play evolves with the actors leading the audience deeper and deeper into the characters’ personalities, unveiling their strengths, their insecurities, their inner-torments. Dramatic turns keep the play evolving with characters struggling to find the right balance between satisfaction and depression. Some compromise; some do not. “Stupid Fucking Bird” looks at the emotional torment of unrequited love.
If opening night is a barometer of audience support, expect several sold out performances. Added peripheral chairs on each side of the general seating area filled for opening night. After word of mouth, expect the same.
Like most Unicorn productions, the play is not child friendly. Adult language (lots of F-bombs) permeate the three act play. The play runs a little over two hours with one intermission after Act I.
As with all Unicorn productions, the technical aspects match the quality of the show selection and the caliber of actors and director. Sound, props, costumes, lighting, set design, etc. all demonstrate the expected Unicorn quality. And, UMKC students worked in those areas as well to hone their skills.
The cast is: Duncan MacIntyre, Doogin Brown, Katie Gilchrst, Amy Billroth-MacLurg, Brian Paulette, Robert Gibby Brand, and Heather Michele Lawler. The production crew is: Tanya Brown, stage manager; Sandra Lopez, scenic design; Ashley L. Kok, lighting designer; Gretchen Halle, costume designer; Stephen Jarvis, sound designer; Calan Welder, dramaturg; Kelli Harrod, properties designer; Stephanie Roberts, choreographer/movements; Chloe Robbins, production assistant.
To be assured of seating, advance ticketing is suggested. Tickets may be purchased through the box office by telephone or through The Unicorn website. For those who cannot afford full-price tickets, The Unicorn offers a pay-what-you-can for weeknight performances. Call the box office for details.
Tags: The Unicorn Theatre, “Stupid Fucking Bird”, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment