Stupid F**king Bird: F**king Smart Play—Theatre

What a way for a season to end…literally and figuratively…with a big, loud Woolly bang!SFB

Stupid F**king Bird,” written by Aaron Posner and directed by Howard Shalwitz, is, as the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company puts it, “sort of adapted” from “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov. Having never read or seen the play (I guess that’s what comes from being a journalism major), I take them at their word. All I know is that “Bird” is one of the most satisfying, electrifying experiences I have had at the theatre in ages.

As written by Posner, “Bird” is about love—mother/son, man/woman, love realized/love unrequited. In some respects it’s also about love of life, love for what one does in that life. Most especially, it’s about how one handles the disappointments of love in all of it facets.  If  this seems impossible to cover in one play, it could be. But in the accomplished hands of “Bird’s” playwright (and Chekhov), director and actors, this play succeeds on every level and then some.

“Stupid F**king Bird” is about a group of actors—close friends and family. The glass-is-half-empty Mash (Kimberly Gilbert) is hopelessly in love with young, overwrought playwright Conrad (Brad Koed), although she knows that Dev (Darius Pierce) worships the ground on which she walks. Unfortunately for Mash, Conrad loves his muse, ingénue Nina (Katie deBuys), who loves him until she meets author Doyle (Cody Nickell). But, as luck would have it, Doyle is attached to actress Emma (Kate Eastwood Norris), mother to Conrad and sister to Sorn (Rick Foucheux), a doctor, who in his 60s, is now questioning whether or not he made the right career choice.

To the assembled group, and to the Woolly audience, Conrad’s play, “Here We Are” makes its debut and it’s this debut that propels “Bird” forward. Where are we? Are we here? What is real? In the piece, Nina asks these questions over and over and over. It all seems ludicrous, but then, like Dev and Sorn, we get “it.” Even the audience gets in on the act as the actors humorously address the theatre-goers and we return the favor. It might sound strange, but somehow it all seems natural, and the dialogue just flows.

And what a cast! If he never does anything else, Brad Koed’s emotional performance as Conrad is something I will remember for the rest of my theatre-loving life. Kimberly Gilbert’s Mash is so real—there is no other word for it. And she not only acts, but sings and plays the ukulele. Her voice is beautiful and when accompanied by the fantastic, understated performance of Darius Pierce on the guitar, piano, or just plain talking, magic happens. Kate Eastwood Norris’ Emma is sheer perfection as the seasoned actress who’s seen and experienced it all and she is matched step for step by Cody Nickell’s conflicted Doyle. Is Rick Foucheux ever less than wonderful? Not to my knowledge. His role is smaller than that of the rest of the cast, but just as important. He shows masterfully how you can do everything right and still be so wrong. Finally is Katie deBuys’ Nina. To some extent it’s Nina actions that affect everyone, and deBuys is terrifically poignant in earning your sympathy, losing it and reclaiming it at play’s end.

“Stupid F**king Bird” is the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company at its devastatingly biting, touching best. It is not to be missed.

4 nuggets out of 4

Through June 23

Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW, Washington, DC

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