Stupid Fucking Bird soars

>>> F-bomb laden Chekhov adaptation is frank, fresh and fierce


STUPID FUCKING BIRD by Aaron Posner (The Bird Collective). At Pop-Up Toronto Theatre (270 King West). Runs to March 26. $20-$40. 416-872-1212. See listing. Rating: NNNN


Stupid Fucking Bird proves that ­Che­khov is still Chekhov, even with ­cellphones and F bombs.

Adam Posner’s lively adaptation of The Seagull, originally scheduled to run at the Storefront Theatre before the venue announced it was shutting down, has shown up in a pop-up venue located between Mirvish’s Royal Alex and Princess of Wales theatres.

The large loft-like space – a former Golf Town, as it turns out – works beautifully for this play about the ­bourgeoisie, changing art styles and thwarted desire.

Aspiring playwright Conrad (Daniel Maslany) is in love with young actor Nina (Karen Knox), but she’s smitten with Doyle (Craig Lauzon), the novelist lover of Conrad’s famous actor mom, Emma (Sarah Orenstein).

Also present are Emma’s physician brother, Eugene (Richard Greenblatt), who’s staring down old age part-time cook Mash (Rachel Cairns), who’s in love with Conrad and Conrad’s friend Dev (Brendan Hobin), who carries a torch for Mash.

While Posner doesn’t quite solve the problem of updating the class relationships in Chekhov’s world, and a bit too much narration adds to the long running time, he does nail the generational divide, finding a boomers vs. millennials theme that feels excitingly urgent today.

Temptation, jealousy and unrequited love are the same as they were centuries ago, something director Vinetta Strombergs and her fine cast understand. Maslany’s Conrad, with his twee hipster outfit (costumed by Christine Urquhart) and self-indulgent utterances, could be any frustrated artist trying to break into the business Mash, singing a woe-is-me song (original songs are by James Sugg) while strumming a ukelele, makes her heartbreak universal.

Strombergs uses the space well to evoke three separate scenes, which audiences get to by moving their chairs. The most evocative one comes in the second half, set in a kitchen late at night, where drunken seductions, ­anguish and recrimination all happen under a single, lonely light bulb (set and lighting are by Steve Lucas). Look for electric work by Knox, Lauzon and ­Orenstein here.

Posner’s meta touches – commenting on the play, occasionally interacting with the audience and sending up the obvious symbolism of the title – are cute but mostly unnecessary.

“Funny, sad and very true,” says Greenblatt’s character about Conrad’s play. It could apply to Posner’s as well.

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