NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Performances stand out in Top Notch production

‘Stupid F*cking Bird’ production

The Top Notch Players Theater performed their fall 2018 production of  “Stupid F*cking Bird” by Aaron Posner. Under the direction of Professor Brianne Beatrice and Sarah Durning, it ran opened on Oct. 5 and closed Oct. 13. With the theater’s past productions such as “Almost Maine”, “Love/Sick”, “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” and “The Odd Couple”, it should come as no surprise that the students and staff put on yet another fantastic production.

The play is a contemporary adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull” written in 1895. The show focuses on a struggling playwright, Con (played by Carlyle Bien-Aime), who rampages against the art created by the generation before him. “He is a

performer standing on a platform with arms fully extended outwardAaron Lehner, Campus Life Editor

Samantha Wheatley as Nina performing Con’s latest work.

tortured artist who wallows in self pity and existential angst.” says Bien-Aime. “He has a lot he wants, but most important is to get Nina to love him.”

Con’s girlfriend Nina (Samantha Wheatley) is an aspiring actress, and becomes infatuated with the renowned author Doyle Trigorin (Armando Belliard-Harmon).  He is dating Con’s mother Emma (Dierdree Glassford), an aging Hollywood actress who is an overbearing presence in Con’s life. The show takes a cynical, yet insightful look of today’s view on the arts, what it really means to be in the moment, the past versus the present, and discovering what the true meaning is to it all.

“You see a lot of things you wouldn’t see in a typical play,” says Durning. “The characters are self-aware they are in a show, and they talk a lot of how art relates to us now.” There are many moments throughout where the characters break the fourth wall to address the audience.

Con explains to the audience that he is as aware of their presence as they are of him. He elaborates by pointing out to a random member that they looked at the actor’s biographies in the program to see if they have done any other stuff in theater.

Besides the writing of the show, the performances of the actors are what made the show really stand out. Beatrice holds a Bachelor’s degree in Theater from Salem State University and Masters degree in Acting from Pennsylvania State University. She stepped in as theater coordinator in spring 2017 with the retirement of Jim Murphy and Susan Sanders. She teaches at NECC, but she has also taught at UMass Lowell, Merrimack College and Salem State.

Students said they have received excellent experience from her either being on or off the stage.

“Being in theater has helped me become more confident in communicating and performing,” says Bien-Aime. “It’s shown me how to be more professional and help with being able to work with a team.”

Stage Manager Matt Brides had never worked in technical theater until he started working with Beatrice. He says  that everyone on board is very professional during rehearsals.

“They know what to do without me telling them,” says Brides. “We collaborate on lots of projects which helps to make the show work as a whole.”  Brides was also in charge of the lighting design for this production. He used different colors to emphasize the mood of each scene such as pink to highlight feelings of love and desire. “Scenes without light are great, but there’s that small edge that the lights give that make the show go from great to amazing.”says Brides.

“I had previously stage managed and acted in past productions,” says Durning. “But this was the first time I had been a co-director rather than an assistant. She let me take the reins when I could and I am very grateful learning from her.” Durning says she plans to pursue a career in theater specializing in directing and possibly for film.

Actors and crew were visited by Esme Allen who was a respondent from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The respondent’s job is to review what they had seen before and during the show, and two actors are nominated to compete for the Irene Ryan scholarship. Durning says that Allen praised much of the acting, the sound design, and had even stopped taking notes at one point to watch the show unfold. Many of the cast and crew members have been selected in the past to participate inthe festival. Bien-Aime, Durning, and Brides were nominated back in the spring year during “Love/Sick.” The nominee results for this show are yet to be announced.

Top Notch Players’ spring production will be “Good People” by David Lindsay-Abaire. The audition date is Dec. 4 from 1 -3 p.m. For more information, email Beatrice at

bribeats@gmail.com.