SAN MARCOS — Imagine you’re watching a play at Palomar’s Brubeck Theatre, and during a moment of silence, somebody next to you yells, “GIVE HER CUNNALINGUS!”.
That happened when I went to watch Palomar’s Stupid F****** Bird. That’s because, in this play, the audience is more than just a peanut gallery. They’re, in a sense, their own character.
If you don’t know much about the play, the Telescope has a piece talking all about the background and plot. Essentially, Stupid F****** Bird includes a tragic love triangle, mommy issues, and the destruction of the 4th wall.
The first thing I noticed walking inside the theatre was the set. A wooden beach shack with a life-saver hung on the wall. The set’s floor was entirely made of wooden planks similar to that of a pier. It all gave tropical beach vibes, which makes sense, considering that the Stupid F****** Bird would be a seagull.
Right before the play began, Michael Mufson, the director, went around and spoke to each audience member individually. It was a courteous gesture, but it also created a more engaged and lively audience, which paid dividends once the audience was incorporated into the play.
The play started like most plays; characters were introduced, and themes began to emerge. As characters began speaking, a sense of malaise and angst filled their lines.
Off the bat, I could tell it wasn’t going to be a happy, jolly play. However, it didn’t bury itself in a dark, pessimistic hole. The play didn’t take itself too seriously, and the production kept it fun by mixing in jokes and funny back and forth between actors and the audience.
It took a couple of introductory scenes before they started playing with the fourth wall, but once they did, it hit the audience like a truck. Nobody knew how to react. The actor had to basically tell us up front that they wanted us to speak.
Funny enough, the cunnilingus moment was what broke the silence. It was followed by more awkward silence, but, in what was the highlight of the play, the actor quickly improvised some banter and got the audience laughing. After that, more and more people started contributing. The actor always had something funny to say.
Another fourth-wall moment was a spinning carousel part where three actors cycled between different sections of the audience and talked to them directly. They all spoke at the same time in a chant-like way, creating an interesting effect.
The play ended in a very matter-of-fact way by detailing how each character’s lives ends. Characters who acted selfishly and hurt others characters got cushy lives while other redeemable characters were doomed to tragic fates.
It stuck with the “life’s unfair” theme. The play wanted you to think and reflect rather than give a satisfying ending with no loose ends.
It left me with a lot to digest, and by the end, I found myself thinking back to some moments in my life with a different perspective. I even empathized with some characters I had disliked before.
The play ended with a bang. The lead actor took a gun, and “shot” a pipe on the roof, causing smoke to shoot out. It made the entire audience jolt up and was a great way to wrap things up.
Palomar’s next production, Manifest Destinitis, will debut on Dec 1.