The Hippo


Apr 23, 2019








Mark Marshall, Carey Cahoon, Tomer Oz, Emily Karel, Wayne Asbury, Deirdre Hickok Bridge, and Peter Josephson. Photo by Matthew Lomanno.

See Stupid F—king Bird

Where: Derry Opera House, 64 E. Broadway, Derry
When: Friday, Sept. 30, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 1, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 2, at 2 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 7, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 8, at 7:30 p.m.
Admission: $20

Modern retelling
Theatre KAPOW play inspired by The Seagull

By Kelly Sennott

 Theatre KAPOW actor Peter Josephson is an Anton Chekhov enthusiast — so when the company was seeking program ideas, he pitched an entire season featuring Chekhov’s well-known play The Seagull. The original would hit the stage this fall, with modern adaptations for winter and spring productions.

“But we had some concern that it would just be too much for an audience that doesn’t want to see the same thing — or what they perceive as the same thing — three times,” Josephson said.
The Seagull is also a big one to put on.
“It contains about 15 people. And that’s a little hard for us. We like to do smaller things. So we started to read shows that were inspired by Chekhov,” Matt Cahoon said.
The first play they read was Stupid F--king Bird by Aaron Posner, and it’s the one they stuck with for the season premiere this weekend, with shows Sept. 30 through Oct. 8 at the Derry Opera House. It features actors Mark Marshall, Carey Cahoon, Tomer Oz, Emily Karel, Wayne Asbury, Deirdre Hickok Bridge, and Josephson, plus direction by Matt Cahoon and lighting design by Tavya Young.
Stupid F--king Bird first hit the stage in D.C. in 2013 and was the winner of the 2014 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play. It’s like a modern retelling of The Seagull, contemporary in its sound and language, and it takes place on a country estate. Woven in the plot is a love web, a battle between young and old and the question: what is theater? 
“It’s very fresh and can be pretty harsh, as you can probably tell by the title. But I think the playwright Aaron Posner does a really good job of kind of distilling it down to Chekhov’s major themes, which is what really drew us to it,” Matt Cahoon said.
The play is aimed at theater nerds especially.
“Everyone studies The Seagull, so everyone’s familiar with it. But this cuts it down to just the basics,” said Bridge, one of the newer faces to the KAPOW stage.
Bridge auditioned this summer because she’d been wanting to do a KAPOW show for awhile. 
The same was true for Karel, who’d taken a Chekhov acting workshop with Josephson in January. She feels the characters and heart of the story remain true to the classic.
“I think Aaron Posner handles it with a lot of respect and reverence,” Karel said. “I think the reason this work has endured and been translated to so many different languages, and the reason we continue to be interested, is because, like Shakespeare, these characters and these stories are so prolific. … The things these characters are dealing with and struggling with are very, very recognizable and very relatable.”
The production follows the company’s 2016-2017 season theme, “Hear, Here,” featuring music and themes of listening.
“The way the play is written, Posner has a series of grammatical symbols he uses to indicate when people are finishing a thought. When they’re speaking over each other, there’s an overlap in the dialogue,” Josephson said. “And when people are speaking over each other in the script, it means they’re not really listening to each other. … Mother and son don’t hear each other — and so then the question is, why don’t they hear each other?”
The set includes a large wall with sliding panels that highlight a 10- by 20-foot portrait of Anton Chekhov, designed by Carey Cahoon. The play features three acts, which is a little unusual; the first and third occur by a lake, the second in a kitchen.
Stupid F--king Bird is also attractive for theater enthusiasts because, essentially, it’s a play about theater. There’s no fourth wall — i.e., the actors know the audience is there. 
“In Chekhov’s original, there’s a debate to what theater ought to be, and this youthful idealism about what theater could become. That’s in this play too, but in the midst of that conversation, the playwright turns to the audience and says, ‘This, for example — yes, we know you’re there, you know we’re here. … We saw you looking at your program. … We all know this is a play. Why are we kidding ourselves pretending it’s not a play?’” Josephson said. “The audience is going to be confronted with some questions about what theater is, and what it is we’re looking for when we come to the theater. And, does theater really represent life, or is it different? It’s very, very entertaining, and if you let it be, it can also be thought-provoking.”

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