Stupid F***ing Bird Review

Stupid F***ing Bird Review
By Molly Murphy ‘20
News & Features Editor

On November 15, Le Moyne’s student run theatre company Major Arcana opened their fall show Stupid F***ing Bird, by Aaron Posner. The play is a modern adaptation of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s classic The Seagull.

Directed by senior Maggie Flower ‘19, the play starred Le Moyne alum Tom Vazquez ‘17 as the tortured young artist Conrad. The play follows Con’s struggle with creating meaningful art alongside his struggle to keep his girlfriend Nina, played by Sylvi Diamond ‘21, from leaving him for another man. As Con tries to hold onto her, his grip on reality begins slipping. The turmoil builds to a shocking and painful conclusion that leaves both the characters and the audience breathless.

The play included elements of audience participation and fourth wall breaking as well as Con teasing the audience about how he knew he was in a play. As an audience member, this was at first uncomfortable simply because it shatters the suspension of disbelief. It’s strange to be dragged into the story, but it really helped to implicate the audience in what was going on onstage. It involved us in the drama and the trauma playing out before us. It helped the audience to empathize with Con as more than a character in a play. It reminded us that he was a real person we were talking to and forced us to think critically about our interactions with other people going through hard times.

The play was also followed by talkbacks from the cast and crew as well as with Maria Randazzo, Le Moyne’s Health and Wellness Coordinator. There were difficult issues presented in this show and it was important to have a moment to decompress and talk about those issues in a safe space.

The play was overall an honest and tender examination of mental illness, showing some of its ugliest moments. It showed how when someone is already struggling, acts of betrayal can be especially devastating. Vazquez captured the pain of this struggle perfectly with his blunt, powerful portrayal of Con. The bitterness and rage of the character was beautifully handled with the grace of well-timed humor and a hopeful attitude in the face of despair.

Vazquez’s counterpart, Sylvi Diamond, was a force of nature on stage. Nina originally appears as a silly, girly character but Diamond’s delivery gives the character depth and sympathy. She built Nina’s own mania and when she finally broke down, it was stunning to watch.

First year students Anna Cornell and Alyssa Goudy were truly the breakout talents of the performance and will surely be ones to watch out for in future shows. Cornell played Emma, Con’s cold-hearted mother whose approval he is desperate for. Cornell’s performance was captivating and I found myself unable to look away from her most powerful moments. Similarly, Goudy was able to play the edgy, artsy Masha with a manic intensity that demanded attention.

Other characters included Dev, Con’s best friend, played by Nick Lutz ‘19, Trigorin, Emma’s lover and the object of Nina’s obsession, played by Daniel Kelly ‘21, and Dr. Sorn, Con’s uncle, played by Tyler Sternberg ‘19.

Dev originally appeared to be the comic relief character, but as the play progressed, Lutz’s gentle, earnest performance became a place for the emotionally challenging story to be grounded. In the darkest moments, he provided a source of joy and hope for the audience and the other characters.

As the show’s sort of antagonist, Kelly was able to excellently play a thoroughly unlikable character in a way that was delightful to watch. As Kelly’s past credits include Mr. Hyde in last years Boot & Buskin performance of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, it was no surprise that he was able to be charming and manipulative in such a wonderfully creepy way.

Sternberg as well was able to be a moral compass for the play, absorbing the troubles of the other characters and reflecting on them in soliloquies. His character eventually became an inverse to Con’s, in that sometimes feeling nothing at all is just as bad as feeling too much. Sternberg was another hidden gem of this play, adding quiet strength underneath the zanier characters until his moment to shine demanded its own respect.

The play was also exceptional from a technical standpoint. To further emphasize the moments of fourth wall breaking, the tech crew often interacted with the characters which added another layer of hilarity to a dark show. The set design, by Samantha Lee ‘20, involved windows adorned with broken pieces of CDs which caught the light in a mesmerizing way. The windows also moved and became more crooked as time went on to represent Con’s deteriorating mental state. The light and sound design was well executed and complimented the show’s themes nicely.

Overall, Stupid F***ing Bird was a standout show from Major Arcana and if you happened to miss it, truly missed out on a powerful performance from a talented group of students. Next semester be sure to check out Boot & Buskin’s Nine to Five and The Visit and Major Arcana’s BARE: a pop opera.