By Andrea Mau
Web Content Contributor
“Stupid F***ing Bird” by Arron Posner and directed by Texas State’s senior, Sydney Quanz, will be showing Feb. 14 to Feb. 16 in room 209 of the Theater building.
“Stupid F***ing Bird” is a modern adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull”
“…We made sure that you can enjoy the show without any knowledge of the source material. You don’t have to suspend your disbelief to eighteenth-century Russia, you can sit comfortably in the present and the play will come to you,” said Quanz, director of the production.
The story follows struggling playwright Conrad, played by Max Otremba, who is putting on a contemporary performance in his mother’s back yard. In attendance is his famous mother, Emma, played by Devon Khalsa; wannabe-famous girlfriend, Nina, played by Julieanna Stolley; best friend, Dev, played by Britain Stilbora; secret admirer, Mash, played by Elizabeth Belfast; sweet uncle, Sorn, played by Diego Huazano; and the accomplished writer and boyfriend of Emma, Trigorin, played by Riley Edwards.
The play is primarily about the complex and unrequited relationships between the characters throughout a wide timeframe but stays in the same location. It also tackles greater philosophical themes with each character offering up similar, yet contrasting world views (though all of which are fascinating).
“Everyone in this play loves deeply and they struggle to express that love without destroying themselves or hurting the people around them,” Quanz said. “It reminds us that wanting to be loved is only human, but letting someone go is how we survive without it.”
But “Stupid F***ing Bird” begins arguably far before the curtains even open. One of the most unique aspects of this play is its relationship between the audience and cast, where the line has been blurred between viewer and performer.
“Posner wrote several moments where the audience must interact to move the play forward, so we searched for every opportunity to give them power and agency as a character in the play,” said Quanz.
No longer must the audience watch passively as blind characters struggling to navigate the narrative; The interactivity of “Stupid F***ing Bird” makes the play-going experience more interesting because the cast can pick out, comment and ask questions to the audience. This requires an audience that is present, and who has a role to play just as much as the performers do.
“the play’s relationship to the audience and the amount of power the audience has in the story definitely seems rare,” said Khalsa, who plays Emma.
Otremba, playing Conrad, also said the production “has a lot of heart and there is something in it for every audience member that sees it. It’s unlike any play I’ve ever been apart of.”
The set, lights and sound match the oddness of the play. “We don’t try to hide the complexities of the 209 classroom, practical lights or set changes from the audience, because the characters know they are in a play,” said Quanz. The result is an unpolished yet fitting feel about the stage which supports the meta-consciousness of the play. “Our designers Allison Klein and Max Wallace have created a world that is tactile, scrappy and self-aware,” said Quanz.
However, it is the cast who truly carry the show. Special thought went into their performances as they delved into “The Seagull” and “Stupid F***ing Bird” research materials as preparation. As Huazano, who plays Sorn, said, “He [Sorn] has a very submissive personality, so finding his primary drives for his actions requires deep dives into the texts.”
It is because of the amazing cast that the play maintains its immersion through-out. The actors and actresses are almost always consistently on stage or in the audience seats, but no matter where my eye wandered, I found that every performer was fully present and engaged with the events in the scene.
“It was so easy to relate to the characters and understand the feelings they were trying so hard to communicate,” said Khalsa.
Stolley, who plays Nina, describes her character as, “so innocent in this beautiful and nuanced way… She is tenacious. She’s driven. She has this fire inside of her to be the best. And she’s relentless in getting there. I love that she’s a fighter.” This is quite a fitting description of Stolley’s performance. Stolley manages to juggle both the elegance of Nina, but also her fierce passion.
This is similar to her other cast members, particularly Otremba’s character Conrad who goes through radically different levels in the play.
“Conrad is a different Conrad by the end of the play,” said Otremba.
Through the clever use of a self-aware set and skilled actors, “Stupid F***ing Bird” manages to communicate a bittersweet message accompanied by plenty of laughs along the way. The play features shocking sequences which maintained my attention through-out. “Stupid F***ing” Bird is perfect for those seeking an engaging kind of play experience.
Come see “Stupid F***ing Bird” at Texas State University running Feb. 14 to Feb. 16 in room 209 of the Theater building.
Featured image by Iliana Ramirez.