New forms of expression of Chekhov’s play
Well, well, well! Chicago and Chekhov cannot part their ways, as famous Russian writer’s works appears again and again in American adaption on city’s theatrical stages. You could have seen “The Hypocrites” at the Den Theatre (directed by Geoff Button, based on Chekhov’s “Three sisters”) and “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at Goodman Theatre (directed by Christopher Durang, which included themes from the plays “Uncle Vanya”, “The Seagull” and “The Cherry Orchard”). And now “Stupid F##king Bird” (directed by Jonathan L. Green and adapted from “The Seagull”) is playing at Victory Gardens Theater.
The title of the last play sounds different. To say the least. But the main idea is still the same: life, art, love, and desperation. It seems that characters know answers on all the questions except the ones affecting their own lives. They love and hate each other. They try so many times to get closer to the “ideal situation”. Some of them made it happen, and some would not. But during all these stress and depression feelings they are laughing in the face of destiny and still taking part in this comedy for themselves. And for us.
We spoke with director of “Stupid F##king Bird” Jonathan L. Green to get his feel on why his decided to put this play on stage.
Jonathan, how did this idea come to your mind? What was your inspiration to start this project?
As an artistic director I have a mission to interact with pre-existing work of art. Either it is going to be a play, a piece of music or visual art. So I heard about this particular play about two years ago. It premiered in Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC, and was directed by Aaron Posner. I got a copy of the script. And we actually saw the show live. We had experienced all kinds of emotions: laughing, crying… We got it all! It was a great piece of literature successfully translated. And English language production is a combination of comedy, pack of rashness and frustration. So we redid this play last summer. Now we are re-announcing it. Why? For the last hundred years Chekhov was everywhere possible as one of the most chosen for the American theaters. Directors always like to tell his stories on stage.
How did you adapt this play for the American audience?
We actually had three different drafts. The point of this play is that the producer of the theater can change or alter things to make sure it feels appropriate for the particular time and particular city. Since then we made additional an additional draft to reach the right momentum. We had a full catch! And I think it is still very funny, but more meaningful as well.
Do you have any elements from Russian culture incorporated in the play?
There is no strong bond with Russian culture, because of the adaptation process. We borrowed some ideas from contemporary Russian music. However, you cannot avoid the entire influence by Anton Chekhov.
What was your main message in this play?
What is the value of theater or art? Without love you cannot have great pieces of music or literature. In this play people fall in love, fall out of love…They are struggling to communicate with each other. And a lot of comedy comes from that. People are in the play, but also trying to escape this play. It is a little bit depressing, but sounds fun.
FYI: Everybody can indulge into “the Russian experience” – Russian-style bazaar – in the lobby, which opens 30 minutes prior to the start of a play. You could haggle with merchants over “Stupid F##king Bird” and Sideshow Theatre merchandise, listen to live music of Chicago artists, play some board games, and visit the CH Distillery booth to drink vodka in the traditional Russian way with rye bread and pickles! Stop by!
Show runs: till August 30th (Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays @7:30 p.m.; Saturdays @2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sundays @3 p.m.)
Location: Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614