‘Stupid Fucking Bird’

A ‘Seagull’ for a New Century

Courtesy Photo

Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull, in particular the production directed by Konstantin Stanislavski for the Moscow Art Theatre in 1898, is regularly credited with giving birth to modern drama. Notoriously short on staged incident, long on dialogue, and loaded with subtext, Chekhov’s study of love among the artistic classes does not, on the face of it, invite modernization to the present. Enter playwright Aaron Posner, with epithet. By flipping the bird with a titular F-bomb, and then following through with a clever, up-to-date script, Posner invites audiences to reconsider these characters from a fresh perspective, and backs it up by mining his material for opportunities to play with and around the fourth wall and other theatrical conventions.

All of which makes Stupid Fucking Bird both a great choice and an ambitious project for the scrappy Elements Theatre Collective troupe members, who are finishing up their sixth season of presenting sophisticated contemporary theater in unusual spaces for free. Guest director Risa Brainin, who is moonlighting from her day job as professor and chair of UCSB’s theater department to helm the production, can barely conceal her delight over the delicious improbability of it all. Taking time out for this Bird from a busy schedule of national directing engagements while continuing to fulfill her obligations as a professor was only possible because, in what she describes as “something that never happens — and I mean never,” she has just directed the show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for Swine Palace, a professional theater company associated with LSU. Coming home to Santa Barbara with the knowledge that she would soon be working with some of her closest friends and collaborators on a project she’s now thoroughly familiar with made the offer from Elements one the director could not refuse.

The show will run for a total of 10 performances at locations including the Orfalea Foundation Downtown Center (1221 Chapala St.) July 7 and July 21; McDermott-Crockett Mortuary (2020 Chapala St.) July 8; and The Carpinteria Woman’s Club (1059 Vallecito Rd.) July 16. For a full list of times and locations, and to obtain seating, which is free but requires a reservation, see elementstc.org.

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