Miami College of Arts’ ‘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 “F” bomb in the title? Miami University’s production of Aaron Posner’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 –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 University’s College of Arts continues to impress me. It’s an undiscovered gem of a theatre department. This show is absolutely no exception. Spoiler alert: I’m going to continue to gush about this production.
The play is based on Chekhov’s the Seagull. Anyone who studied the play truly knows that it is, in Posner’s words, “historical and often even hackneyed.” Not so with this adaptation. This is full of life! In my three years of reviewing Miami’s productions I have never seen such strong performances from college actors.
It’s often hard to believe that a twenty-something college “kid” is a fifty to sixty year-old man or forty-something woman. They always tend to play “old” 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. The actors speak to the audience as they, as characters, put on their play. They truly, solidly, embody these characters.
Richard Dent’s performance as Sorn is so simple, home-style, 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 – angry, honest, smart, sensitive, humorous, and deeply moving.
Raechel Lombardo is inimitable as Mash. She plays despairing, unrequited lover with a sardonic truth. Costume designer Melanie Mortimore made subtle changes to Mash’s costuming as Lombardo takes her character from dark to light. It was as smooth and flawless as almost to be unnoticed. That’s the mark of a great wardrobe design and an actor portrayal.
Kate Hendrickson brings an almost Faye Dunaway-“Mommie Dearest” element to her character Emma. 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. Joeston is very comfortable in his performance of one of theatre’s most well-known characters. 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 he has forgotten himself and authentically gets into character.
And let’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 “Bravo” to Anthony 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 Chekhov play. Thompson’s Dev is brimming with genuine likeability. Thompson as composer brings depth and insight to the characters through his music. The underscore was very much that – a score under the scenes, yet it was an added bonus with much feeling and complexity. Since the play itself examines the relevance of theatre, Thompson’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 “songs” are written and what Thompson himself added to enhance the lives of these characters.
Gion DeFrancesco shows great range with his sublime scenic design. We’re smack-dab in the middle of the backyard complete with the audience just “pulling up a chair – any chair” 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 DeFrancesco’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). Kudos to Light Board Operator Josh George who perfectly timed the lighting changes to the wave of Mario Formica’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. She has guided her cast and crew to a unique and exciting work of theatre. I’m not a fan of Chekhov but this experience was enjoyable, accessible and comfortable.
It’s Anton F***ing Chekhov versus the modern world in this ballsy Stupid F***ing Bird. I’m sorry you missed this one.