by Clark Groome

“Stupid F&*king Bird,” Aaron Posner’s play with the media-unfriendly title, has been described as a “deconstruction” of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” Should, therefore, the theatergoer have a familiarity with the original Chekhov piece? Ideally no. But on opening night I felt as though there might be references in Posner’s piece that would have benefited from a more complete knowledge of “The Seagull” than I had after not seeing it in more than a decade.

With that as a caveat, there is much to like about the Arden Theater’s production of its founder’s play that’s playing through Oct. 16. There are also times that “Stupid F#@king Bird” comes across as being a tad sophomoric.

So what have we got? “Stupid F+%king Bird,” tells the story of seven characters with strange and complicated relationships: Con (Aubie Merrylees) is in love with Nina (Cindy De La Cruz), who has the hots for Karl Miller’s Trigorin, who just happens to be married to Con’s mother, Emma (Grace Gonglewski, for whom the part was written and who is in top form here).

Dev (Dan Hodge) is an insecure and impoverished fellow who’s madly in love with Mash (Alex Keiper) who, just to keep things percolating at a high boil, is desperately in love with Con. The always-impressive Greg Wood is Dr. Sorn, Emma’s older brother.

The action, most of which is talk involving that favored “F” word, involves the various machinations of those relationships and is set in a play that fully admits it’s drama or comedy or whatever, even acknowledging the audience and, in a casual way, involving it in the story.

It’s often very clever. It’s often considerably more than that. And occasionally it’s (here’s that word again) sophomoric.

Posner, who left the Arden several years ago to set out on a directing and playwriting career that has received positive notices all over the country, has returned to his artistic roots to direct his Chekhov deconstruction, which has played to rapturous reviews all over the country. The Arden production is as close to perfect as anyone could imagine.

The cast is brilliant. The production — designed by Tim Macabee (set), Thom Weaver (lighting), Katherine Fritz (costumes) and featuring James Sugg’s songs — is impressive.

I fought the play for quite a while, feeling that it was more showoffy for the writer than it was great drama for the folks in the seats. By the time the second act ended, however, it had more than captured me. My guess is that knowing a bit about “The Seagull” would help but isn’t, ultimately, all that necessary.

It’s also apparent that in its current iteration at the Arden, Aaron Posner’s “Stupid F>$king Bird” is likely to leave you impressed with its content and with the production.

For tickets, call 215-922-1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org.

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