What is it about the work of Anton Chekhov that cries out for adaptations?
Note: There are, as of today, April 19th, only 13 performances of Stupid F**ing Bird left to catch at the Pearl Theatre.
Stupid… is Aaron Posner’s “sort of” adaptation (his words, not ours) of the Chekhov classic soon to be in repertory with Georges Feydeau’s The Ding Dong at The Pearl in mid March. Posner’s play is the 2014 recipient of both the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical and the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Resident Play.
Note that it is only coincidental that a 2014 MacArthur nominee was Michael J. Bobbitt for Three Little Birds which premiered at the New Victory Theatre last February, and that Marc Acito, one of the writers for Broadway’s Allegiance, won in 2012 for Birds of a Feather. Neither Three Little Birds, which is based on a Bob Marley song, nor Birds of a Feather, which is about Central Park Zoo penguins, is based on a work by Chekhov.
Pan Pan, an irreverent Irish theatrical company, is launching …Other Birds at the Abrons Playhouse from March 23 through April 2. Their interpretation reimagines The Seagull in a variety of genres, from straight classic play to YouTube. Chekhov’s play in …Other Birds is integrated with works by Dick Walsh, Derrick Devine, Gavin Quinn and Dan Riordan specially commissioned by the company. This US premiere production will give audiences an unique take on the comic masterpiece.
Other examples of the challenge that Chekhov, perhaps unwittingly, still sends to playwrights so many years after he has left the stage abound. In the fall of 2014, Donald Margulies revisited Chekhov with his The Country House (at MTC starring Blythe Danner).
In another interesting variation on the theme, a chamber opera about fulfilling a Chekhov stage direction from The Cherry Orchard. The sound which Beethoven and Quasimodo both try to recreate is “impossible” because it is one of nostalgia for something lost or missing or not existent. This doomed collaboration is the premise in The Hunchback Variations, A Chamber Opera, which was at 59E59 Theaters in the summer of 2012.