Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Stupid Fucking Bird
Reimagining Chekhov as parody

Review by Wally Gordon

Also see Rob's review of The Other Mozart

Caitlin Aase and Gregory Wagrowski
Photo by Richard K. Hogle
Stupid Fucking Bird isn't Chekhov by a long shot. But immeasurably helped along by a strong cast and skilled direction, the new production by Albuquerque's Fusion company is an entertaining comedy that riotously parodies the conventions of modern life and art and the poseurs of post-modern theater.

The three-act play by the prolific Aaron Posner follows the rough plot outline of Chekhov's 1896 Russian masterpiece The Seagull, but it exists in a kind of parallel universe with Chekhov's complex moral shadings subtracted and 21st century slapstick dialog added. First staged in 2013, the play has been a hit in regional theaters, with performances in, among others, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

The play interweaves literary debate about the need—or lack thereof—for new forms and radical change with a complex web of desire and sex among its seven characters. The primary qualities exhibited by this less-than-morally-perfect ensemble are faithlessness, lustfulness, egocentrism, and self-pity. Yet, because this is a comedy (Chekhov subtitled The Seagull "a comedy" despite the fact that it ends with the most sympathetic character blowing his brains out), all the characters end up somehow O.K., with lives they have learned to accept, albeit grudgingly.

Director Laurie Thomas and most of the actors are Fusion company standbys, and they deliver a professionally impeccable performance. But the spirit of the veterans is leavened by surprisingly spritely and confident performances by youthful newcomers.

Leading that list is Megan Tusing, a young New York-based actress who stepped in only a week before the opening to take over the difficult role of Nina. At one moment a willful, naive child and wannabe actress, the next moment a smooth and sexy seductress, she falls in love with the slimy, elderly literary genius Trig. Trig, played by Gregory Wagrowski, a wondrous actor who seems somehow magically to adapt to any kind of role he chooses to play, is also the lover of the aging but acclaimed actress Emma, performed with panache and withering scorn by Jacqueline Reid.

Another standout young actor is Harrison Sim, who as Con pulls off the difficult feat of making a self-obsessed, depressive 20-something layabout seem not only sympathetic but tragic. The heart of Con's tragedy, aside from failing at everything he touches, including his own suicide, is his unrequited love for Nina.

Filling out the cast in strong supporting roles are Jamie H. Jung as Con's odd but likable and quite modest young friend Dev; Caitlin Aase as the tough, sarcastic and sexy Masha; and John Dennis Johnson as Sorn, the avuncular and rather gentle older brother of Emma. Original production music by James Sugg (as well as some rock classics) and the sweet singing voice of Aase add fine atmospheric touches of haunting sadness.

The play continues through February 14, 2016. Performances are at the Cell, 700 1st St. NW in Downtown Albuquerque, except for the final show, which will be pay-what-you-will at 6 p.m. at the KiMo Theater,421 Central Ave. NW in Downtown Albuquerque. For tickets and more information call 505-766-9412 or go to The Fusion recommends the play for mature audiences.

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