For Aaron Posner, adapting Chekhov was in no small part about knocking the Russian master off his 100-year-old dramatic pedestal. “What he was doing then was radical and revolutionary and exciting,” Posner reasons. “Doing Chekhov a hundred years later is the opposite of that.”
So in Posner’s Seagull riff Stupid Fucking Bird, the plot of the original drama is blended together with direct audience addresses, rants about the uselessness of contemporary theatre, and a healthy spoonful of modern slang (the word “sucks” comes up often, as does the F word that rhymes with it).
At one point, in a diatribe about the need for new theatrical forms that can inspire and change audiences, Konstantin (now known as “Con”) refers anachronistically to Cirque du Soleil as “the hand-job of the theatre,” because of that company’s purported lack of substance. Does Posner actually think that about contemporary theatre? “We all want what we do to be the life-changing, rock-people’s-world experience that we’ve all seen in one moment in our lives—but there’s not enough theatre anywhere that is that kind of work.”
Posner’s irreverent Bird was commissioned by Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., where it premiered in 2013. Woolly is remounting the play (with the original cast and crew intact) July 18–Aug. 17. Concurrently, a different production at Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena, co-produced with Circle X Theatre Company, is running through July 27.
The play is the first of four Chekhov reimaginings Posner has planned. The second, a remix of Uncle Vanya called Life Sucks (Or the Present Ridiculous), will debut at Theater J in D.C. next Jan. 14–Feb. 15. What can viewers expect from Life Sucks? Posner’s Con-esque answer, which he insists be written in all caps: “MORE AND BETTER THINGS.”