Monday, October 16, 2017

Blackbird (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Illness prevented me from seeing David Harrower's Blackbird when it first opened.  Now that I have seen it, almost at the end of its run, let me make my reaction crystal:

Go see this play.  It will hurt and move you, and open up images as well as possibilities you (hopefully) have never experienced.  The performances will sear you, make you a different person.

Don Bloomfield directs this two character play, which lasts about ninety minutes without an intermission.  The space proves intimate, almost uncomfortably so.  One very nearly smells the set. 

In a litter strewn breakroom somewhere (in a business that fills some kind of pharmaceutical orders, we are told) a middle aged employee (Michael Conners) finds himself confronted by a young, attractive woman (Cali Flemming).  It is night, with folks working overtime to finish something.  The man is clearly terrified and using indignation as a kind of shield.  Fairly passive-aggressive right from the start.

The young woman only just learned where to find him.  We soon learn the name he uses now--Peter--is new.  He had to change his name.  They both know why.  We don't until she asks a horrific question.

How many other twelve year old girls have you fucked?

When he answers (which takes a little while) he says "Only you."

Now we know where we are.  This man sexually molested her as a child, and she needed to speak with him.  She does not know why, but the reason seems clear enough, at least on a visceral level.  Una (that is her name--which we don't learn for quite some time, an interesting and disturbing detail) all too obviously has not finished processing what happened.  Many, many things have been left unsaid.  Likewise many thoughts never allowed to reach the surface, emotions never given their time to vent, facts never fully faced.  For her, maybe for him.

And so they meet.  They talk.  We get a lot of details of what happened, with squirm-worthy but not salacious detail.  Hardly anything about the act.  But the prelude, yes.  Even more the aftermath.  Not least how each now views what happened and what they day say to each other or even themselves.

It feels not only honest, but raw.  With a full gamet of what such an event might inspire and churn up in terms of the human heart.  Pity, rage, self-defense, compassion, tenderness, despair, confusion barely begin to describe what we see, what we learn, what we continue to see and learn for ninety minutes.  One of the most powerful things any performance can do is shock and surprise the audience by showing what we realize in retrospect must have been inevitable.  Blackbird does this, again and again and again.

I even turned away more than once, because the power of this play became so real.  This is a tribute not only to the script but the direction and especially the amazing (as in "brave" and "skilled" as well as "talented") performances.

Blackbird (the debut solo production by the DBA Studio) plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 3pm until October 22, 2017 at the Met, 1089 North Oxford Avenue (at Santa Monica Blvd, one block east of Western Ave.), Los Angeles CA 90029.

No comments: