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Retract the talons

Last Call: Stupid F**kin g Bird

Cast of Stupid F---ing Bird
Cast of Stupid F---ing Bird

Cygnet Theatre’s wacko, over the woods, and through the river Stupid Fking Bird must close this Sunday.

Stupid F**king Bird

It’s a sad comment on these times that usually when one of Anton Chekhov or Henrik Ibsen’s plays comes to San Diego it isn’t the real deal. Instead it’s a parody or an adaptation or a neo-re-de-imagining that waters down the original to make it “accessible.”

Call it the “I Hate Hamlet” syndrome: replace classics with pseudo-plays that take dead aim to please. Are these playwrights — and you can throw in cutsie mash-ups of the Bard — too demanding for San Diego theater? Don’t we have the chops? Obviously it’s much easier to poke fun – and sell tickets – than to mount more challenging works.

Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fking Bird is an all-points bulletin for better theater. It’s as if the students in Spring Awakening raged not against sexual but artistic repression.

Instead of Chekhovian silence and sophistication, Bird’s like talons on a chalkboard. It betrays an infantile urge for attention. It’s so self-centered, in fact, you might leave the theater with a terminal case of Contact Narcississm.

It’s Chekhov’s Seagull: four artists, two on the rise, two past the summit. They yearn amid futility, they dream, they love — oh, do they ever! — as mortality hovers in the wings.

Much of the Chekhov is subtextual. He invites you into a character’s inner being and trusts you to find your way.

It was once said of the Russian novel, “everybody soffers.” In Stupid Fking Bird they do in spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs, and wild jokers. The play wouldn’t know a subtext if one hit it with a word processor. Everything’s external: characters whine and grieve and existentialize in boldface.

The message must be conveyed, however: safe, commercial theater threatens to suffocate art with entertainment. And it’s up to audiences — currently, the play suggests, in a Chekhovian stupor — to demand more daring theater.

And the Cygnet cast does a bang-up job at that. Some must break all ten commandments of their training: play front, bellow, deliberately offend. You can almost hear some whispering, “I may burn in thespian hell for this, but it needs to be said.”

And will be, through this Sunday, June 19

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Cast of Stupid F---ing Bird
Cast of Stupid F---ing Bird

Cygnet Theatre’s wacko, over the woods, and through the river Stupid Fking Bird must close this Sunday.

Stupid F**king Bird

It’s a sad comment on these times that usually when one of Anton Chekhov or Henrik Ibsen’s plays comes to San Diego it isn’t the real deal. Instead it’s a parody or an adaptation or a neo-re-de-imagining that waters down the original to make it “accessible.”

Call it the “I Hate Hamlet” syndrome: replace classics with pseudo-plays that take dead aim to please. Are these playwrights — and you can throw in cutsie mash-ups of the Bard — too demanding for San Diego theater? Don’t we have the chops? Obviously it’s much easier to poke fun – and sell tickets – than to mount more challenging works.

Aaron Posner’s Stupid Fking Bird is an all-points bulletin for better theater. It’s as if the students in Spring Awakening raged not against sexual but artistic repression.

Instead of Chekhovian silence and sophistication, Bird’s like talons on a chalkboard. It betrays an infantile urge for attention. It’s so self-centered, in fact, you might leave the theater with a terminal case of Contact Narcississm.

It’s Chekhov’s Seagull: four artists, two on the rise, two past the summit. They yearn amid futility, they dream, they love — oh, do they ever! — as mortality hovers in the wings.

Much of the Chekhov is subtextual. He invites you into a character’s inner being and trusts you to find your way.

It was once said of the Russian novel, “everybody soffers.” In Stupid Fking Bird they do in spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs, and wild jokers. The play wouldn’t know a subtext if one hit it with a word processor. Everything’s external: characters whine and grieve and existentialize in boldface.

The message must be conveyed, however: safe, commercial theater threatens to suffocate art with entertainment. And it’s up to audiences — currently, the play suggests, in a Chekhovian stupor — to demand more daring theater.

And the Cygnet cast does a bang-up job at that. Some must break all ten commandments of their training: play front, bellow, deliberately offend. You can almost hear some whispering, “I may burn in thespian hell for this, but it needs to be said.”

And will be, through this Sunday, June 19

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