URBANA — "Stupid ------- Bird" takes a classic play, Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull," and "reboots" it, as the Station Theatre puts it.
There are numerically more than love triangles in the Celebration Company's production of Aaron Posner's take on the 19th-century drama.
It opens at 7:30 tonight at the theater, 223 Broadway Ave.
Chekhov described "The Seagull" as a comedy: "There are three women's parts, six men's, four acts, landscapes (view over a lake); a great deal of conversation about literature, little action, tons of love."
Not to be out-complicated, Posner's adaptation offers a dead bird — with an expletive for a middle name — and lively characters.
"The Station has also not often shied away from what might be called 'adult content.' This play certainly has that. But I expect that the play's title announces that right up front," director Kay Bohannon Holley said.
The mismatches: Dev suffers from an unrequited love for Mash, Mash is desperately in love with Con, who is deeply in love with Nina, his muse. Nina becomes entranced by Trig, who is dating Con's mother, Emma.
As Holley points out, Posner told an interviewer, "The plot is more or less the plot of 'The Seagull.' The characters are more or less the seven main characters of 'The Seagull,' with some folks cut and some combined and reimagined."
The director said Posner's main work for years has been adapting.
"With this play, he perhaps pushed the notion of 'adaptation' further than one might expect," she said. "The fact that it was sort of an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's play 'The Seagull' wasn't the main draw of the play for me at first, because I hadn't read 'The Seagull' since graduate school. Now that I have reread the Chekhov, I realize how many characteristics the two plays share."
Holley was hooked.
"The moment I read it, I knew that I wanted it to be the next play I directed. It is wonderfully idiosyncratic, often hilarious and full of feeling and truth. I was drawn to it immediately," she said.
"There is love all over this play," a note said.
"That is perhaps the greatest draw for me. Love drives the action," Holley said. "Not all happy love and certainly not easy love, but love in all its shapes: romantic love, sexual love, love of family, love between friends and love of a pursuit, such as art."
An intimate play is aided by an intimate setting and interesting staging directions.
"The script is surgically precise in its emotional descriptions," said Lindsey Gates-Markel, who plays Nina. "At the same time, the stage directions are constantly amended by perhapses and maybes and ... or nots.
"Posner knows and loves the characters, but avoids prescribing the actors' physical actions. That space he creates is wonderful."
"There is something that one gets out of watching a play in this space that is different than other kinds of theatrical space," she said of the "meta-theatrical" work.
"The Station doesn't have a lot of theatrical trappings — no trap doors, no fly-space, no wings, no spotlights or rotating stages," she said. "Mostly what we have is an ability to exploit what is at the heart of really good theatre: telling stories about human beings (embodied by good actors) who are grappling in transformative ways with all the wonder and all the heartbreak of being human."
The actors communicate with the audience in the play.
"This play feels like discovering there was a window within that fourth wall that we can open, too," Gates-Markel said. "The characters are aware of their relationship with the audience, and grateful for it.
"I think a lot of people respond fearfully to anything that sounds like 'audience participation,' especially somewhere as intimate as the Station. But here, all that means is that the boundaries of the play widen to acknowledge you, whether you're onstage or off."
If you go
What: "Stupid ------- Bird"
Where: Station Theatre, 223 Broadway Ave., U
When: Tonight through May 4. Shows are Wednesdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m., except April 28, when it starts at 3 p.m.
Tickets: Regular admission is $15. $10 for students and seniors. The First Friday performance is $10 for all.
Tickets: Online at brownpapertickets.com/event/4206945 or by phone at 800-838-3006.