by David Harrower
directed by Robin Larsen
extended through September 12
David Harrower's spellbinding Blackbird is taut from first line to last, and gives its audience an unexpected emotional ride that is characteristic of only really great theatre. Expertly cast and directed, Blackbird is in another extension at the Rogue Machine, now through September 18.
Stepehanie Kerley Schwartz' gritty set design of a break room in an old rundown factory-type building adds so much to the proceedings. It's a despiccable room to look at, filthy and neglected, and you do not want to be there, just as you question if you really want to be here witnessing the horrifying confrontation between Una (Corryn Cummins) and Ray (Sam Anderson). Una accuses Ray of abusing her at age 12 and after 8 years of psychological torture, she tracks him down in another town to confront him with her outrage. At first glance, it seems like just another case of a distraught girl dredging up the past in an attempt to to bring closure to that part of her life - but it's not. It's, in fact, only the beginning of another long painful road of insecurity and misery for her and without a doubt for Ray.
It's inane to give away too much of what happens, as it will spoil the play. What is most engrossing about this character study is that it presents both sides of the coin, from the perspective of the girl and also from the perspective of the pedofile, who claims he has made some serious adjustments and finally carved out a new and meaningful existence for himself. Whether you choose to believe him, is totally up to you. Harrower allows his audience to make up their own minds about where the truth lies.
Larsen has directed skillfully and both Cummins and Anderson deliver remarkable performances. They make it easier to comes to terms with the emotional chaos that each has been suffering. Anderson makes Ray's anguish palpable, and it is not difficult to buy into his seemingly sincere ramblings, but one thing remains clear in the play: Ray never once says, "I'm sorry." Is his reformed facade and gut-wrenching outpouring a pack of lies?
Blackbird is a poetic mystery that is completely human and undeniably affecting. Its riveting surprises and twists will leave you gasping.