Miami College of Artsâ€™ ‘Stupid F***ing Bird’ is Brilliant and Solid
Posted On June 23, 2017
Review by Shawn Maus of Stupid F***ing Bird: Miami Univesity
So how do you review a play with the â€œFâ€ bomb in the title?Â Miami Universityâ€™s production of Aaron Posnerâ€™s Stupid F***ing Bird is a show not to be missed, although, by the time you read this review, the show will have closed â€“due to the short performance dates of college theatre. Miami had its hands full with marketing this show due to the title. So from here on out it will be known as SFB.
I have to say that Miami Universityâ€™s College of Arts continues to impress me. Itâ€™s an undiscovered gem of a theatre department.Â This show is absolutely no exception. Spoiler alert: Â Iâ€™m going to continue to gush about this production.
The play is based on Chekhovâ€™s the Seagull. Anyone who studied the play truly knows that it is, in Posnerâ€™s words, â€œhistorical and often even hackneyed.â€ Not so with this adaptation. This is full of life! In my three years of reviewing Miamiâ€™s productions I have never seen such strong performances from college actors.
Itâ€™s often hard to believe that a twenty-something college â€œkidâ€ is a fifty to sixty year-old man or forty-something woman. They always tend to play â€œoldâ€ has stooped over and a little constipated in the facial expressions. Not this cast. They are actors who are characters who are also aware that they are actors presenting a play.Â The actors speak to the audience as they, as characters, put on their play. They truly, solidly, embody these characters.
Richard Dentâ€™s performance as Sorn is so simple, home-style, Â and extraordinarily grounded that he is that 50-something- year-old man. His character arc includes celebrating a 60th birthday, and Dent makes you believe that Sorn is experiencing the pain of growing old and fighting stomach cancer.
Mario Formica, just a junior in the program, brings a child-like and mature transformation to Con. His monologues are impassioned â€“ angry, honest, smart, sensitive, humorous, and deeply moving.
Raechel Lombardo is inimitable as Mash.Â She plays despairing, unrequited lover with a sardonic truth. Â Costume designerÂ Melanie MortimoreÂ made subtle changes to Mashâ€™s costuming as Lombardo takes her character from dark to light.Â It was as smooth and flawless as almost to be unnoticed. Thatâ€™s the mark of a great wardrobe design and an actor portrayal.
Kate Hendrickson brings an almost Faye Dunaway-â€œMommie Dearestâ€ element to her character Emma.Â Another mature acting performance that shows Emma as a mother and a sister while she is callous and grand.
Adam Joeston is almost the veteran of the group.Â Joeston is very comfortable in his performance of one of theatreâ€™s most well-known characters.Â Â He puts his fine stamp of grace and good looks to the pretentious and unfaithful Trigorin. You get a sense that somewhere in the actors psyche heÂ has forgotten himself and authentically gets into character.
And letâ€™s not forget Nina. As played by Maddie Mitchell we see a vibrant, young adult who is smitten with Trigorin but is a bit unstable. Mitchell smolders as her Emma seduces Trigorin.
A big, aforementioned â€œBravoâ€ to AnthonyÂ Thompson. Not only does he play overlooked Dev with all the wit and innocence of a young college friend, but he also composed the score. Yes, a score, in a ChekhovÂ play.Â Thompsonâ€™s Dev is brimming with genuine likeability.Â Thompson as composerÂ brings depth and insight to the characters through his music.Â The underscore was very much that â€“ a score under the scenes, yet it was an added bonus with much feeling and complexity.Â Since the play itself examines the relevance of theatre, Thompsonâ€™s score brings a new life to a play that is not a musical by definition. It would be interesting to read the script to see where the â€œsongsâ€ are written and what Thompson himself added to enhance the lives of these characters.
Gion DeFrancesco shows great range with his sublime scenic design. Weâ€™re smack-dab in the middle of the backyard complete with the audience just â€œpulling up a chair â€“ any chairâ€ to sit on. The use of a painted mural that removes to reveal the bookcase of the almost recluse Con in Act Two is one of the hidden gems in DeFrancescoâ€™s design. We go from the implied backyard to a complete fully realized kitchen that looks like it was ripped from Home-a-rama.
The lighting staff and design were spot on (yes, pun intended).Â Kudos to Light Board Operator Josh George who perfectly timed the lighting changes to the wave of Mario Formicaâ€™s hand to signify audience participation time and SNAP back again to get back into the f***ing play.
Director Saffron Henke takes us on a hilarious and unpredictable ride.Â She has guided her cast and crew to a unique and exciting work of theatre.Â Iâ€™m not a fan of ChekhovÂ but this experience was enjoyable, accessible and comfortable.
Itâ€™s Anton F***ing Chekhov versus the modern world in this ballsyÂ Stupid F***ing Bird.Â Iâ€™m sorry you missed this one.