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“Stupid F##king Bird” breaks the fourth wall while addressing pertinent social issues

“Stupid F##king Bird” claims to be “a ‘sort of’ adaptation of Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’ by Aaron Posner.” Directed by Meg Taintor, this play does this description justice. The production follows the general structure of “The Seagull” combined with monologues contemplating life and characters interacting with the audience.

With an unexpected start, the entire cast marched onto the stage and proclaimed that the play would not start until someone in the audience said, “Start the f—— play.” The audience obliged and the play began. It was clear from this first line that the play would break the fourth wall, including the audience in the performance. At times throughout the play, the entire plot would stop for a minute so that someone could ask a question of the audience and wait for a response, creating dialogues between audience members and the actors. At other moments, characters would make side notes about the play, that they were currently performing. The most notably example being when Conrad, played by first-year Elijah McTiernan, was talking about the play he wrote, which was actually the play they were performing.

With a cast half the size of that of the original play, there is significant opportunity for dialogue among the characters and sizable monologues where all the other characters watch in the shadows. It was through moments like these that social issues were questioned and limits were pushed.

Right from the very beginning, Conrad was questioning societal roles. Through his play within a play, his girlfriend Nina, played by fourth-year Isabella Etro, questioned what it meant to be here and whether this was a work in progress. Although not everyone in the audience, made up of the other characters in the play, enjoyed this play, leading to it ending early, it started off the performance pushing boundaries.

As the play went on, various social issues were addressed including the human capacity to care, the forms of theatre and the selfish nature of mankind. Although most of the younger characters took part in this, one character who seemed completely oblivious was Conrad’s mom, Emma, played by fourth-year Nicole Felix, which created some tension between her and her son.

With the current political climate many lines that the characters delivered were particularly relevant to the changes many people have been calling for. In the middle of one of many monologues, the increase in school shootings was brought up in a way suggesting that it could have been placed even before the recent tragedy in Florida. Although issues like these were presented, there was still the typical drama expected from the theatre, such as conflicts of love and family drama.

In one of the first scenes, Dev (fifth-year Alan Liam Estes) and Mash (first-year Caitlyn Rooms) broke up, due to Mash’s love for Conrad, who was very in love with Nina. Despite Conrad’s love for her, Nina had taken an interest in Emma’s boyfriend, Trigorin (second-year Curran Grant), creating a very messy love triangle. The issue of love and how to deal with the inability to be with your true love was explored throughout the play, with no clear conclusion found by the end.

Although the play might not be exactly what you expect from an adaptation of Chekhov’s work, it questioned social norms and kept the audience engaged through its almost three hour of runtime.

Despite it being opening night of the play, Friday, Feb. 23 saw an audience of around 50 students and community members, most of whom engaged with the play when called for. The play will continue on Thursday, March 1 at 10 a.m., Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 4 at 2 p.m. in Hauck Auditorium. Tickets are $12 or free for students with a MaineCard.

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