Blackbird 2010

By: David Harrower

Blackbird

Directed by: Daniel Scott

Stage Left Theatre

2009 smash hit makes its way back for a short time.

I wasn’t lucky enough to see Blackbird when it was playing at the Victory Gardens in 2009. “Oh, I’ll just catch it next weekend.” I said. Well, next weekend never came, and I was left wondering what I missed. Hearing that it was going through a short-run (six nights only) at the Stage Left theatre, I knew I couldn’t miss my chance. And I’m glad I didn’t.

Blackbird is a disturbing piece about a girl reuniting with a man, with whom she had a sexual affair with when she was 12 years old.  The story takes place 15 years after the fact, and the girl Una, played by Cassandra Cushman, seeks unanswered questions from her abuser Ray, played by David Schaplowsky. Ray, now 56, making him 41 years old during the incident, is paid a surprise visit from Una at his work place, and is left to re-live what he has been escaping from for the past 15 years.

The writing in this play couldn’t be more superb. The contrasts between Rays rationalizing, and Una’s torment since the abuse, is done in such a way, that you really don’t know who to trust. Each of them volley back and forth, trying to have the other justify who’s life has been the most damaged as a result.

Both of them could have gone on without seeing each other again, yet, they seem to be sustaining themselves on pain and unease. This constant raising of tension makes for some very good theatre, despites it’s very dark subject matter.

Both Cushman and Schaplowsky deliver these skin curdling recollections with great force, and serve the script very well. Since this play is meant to take place in England, director Daniel Scott kept true to the cultural idiosyncrasies, and did not try to Americanize it any way. The accents are done pretty well for the most part, but they can fade in-and-out on occasion. That would be my only complaint.

The Stage Left Theatre serves as a perfect space for this show. Its tight quarters make you feel like as if you were watching this through a break room window. The el trains can be heard during the show, since the theatre is only blocks away from the CTA Red Line. Don’t be fooled, this accidental sound effect actually heightens the shows gloom.

Blackbird deals with some heavy, mature themes, and is not something to bring the kids to. But if you looking for a powerful theatre experience, get to this show while it’s here. Again, there are only five shows left, so don’t miss out. You may not be as lucky as I was.

Highly Recommended

John B. Reinhardt

Date Reviewed: 8/16/10

For full show information, check out the Blackbird page at TheatreInChicago.

Stage Left Theatre/ 3408 N. Sheffield. Chicago / $15/$10 Industry/ general admission / Running time approximately 90 minutes/  August 16th-18th, & 23rd-25th  / Mon-Weds at 8pm