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Is Deconstructing a Play the Same as Trashing It?

Courtesy Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Posner’s “Stupid F---ing Bird” is a play about love and art and an attempt to deconstruct Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” But it falls short, despite strong actors and good set design.

In Tom Stoppard’s 1982 play “The Real Thing,” the character Henry, a successful playwright, says that it is nearly impossible for him to write about love with any level of profundity. It comes out juvenile or rude, even boring.

Aaron Posner’s “Stupid F---ing Bird” playing at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company through June 23, proves that the childish, clichéd predictability that comes to the surface when an author struggles to describe and deconstruct love is just as exasperating when an otherwise exceptional artist attempts to deconstruct his own art.

Posner, one of the most creative and accomplished theatrical directors working, has written a play about the struggle to create art by deconstructing a classic play, “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov. The full weight of the play, which feels like Posner’s primal scream, falls horribly flat. The fault is not with the production, which is solid. The actors, with a couple of notable exceptions, are very good. The set is gorgeous and intricate, though it does feel a bit disconnected from scene to scene. The fault lies in the prose.

“Stupid F---ing Bird” is the story of Conrad (Brad Koed), a young playwright arrested at a crucial stage of his development, when he has to decide whether he will remain mired in the winter of his adolescent discontent or get on with the business of growing up.

Conrad, bless him, decides against maturity and embraces pedantry as he shouts, pouts and descends into a pit of self-indulgent hyperbole.

Art should change the world, Conrad shouts. His beloved doesn’t love him, Conrad shouts. He hates his mother and she doesn’t understand him, Conrad shouts. He’s thwarted, Conrad shouts. Even Chekhov gets shouted at by Conrad.

In fact, there is so much shouting about his own artistic torture and self-pity that this reviewer found herself wishing Conrad’s attempted suicide had been successful and ended the misery for everyone.

Koed brings little depth to Conrad’s character, though in fairness, it might not be his fault — the character might just be intrinsically unsympathetic. Posner, whose work often reinterprets the plays of William Shakespeare, attempts to incorporate the Shakespearian aside into the action of this play. It works for some characters, but not really for Conrad. In the end his asides, and his actions, make him a jerk.

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