New York City Theater
Manhattan Theatre Club
In David Harrower’s explosive, award-winning “Blackbird,” Ray is confronted by Una. Right from the start, we know that he had sex with her when she was 12 and he was about 40. Now, 15 years later, she has returned to confront him with his crime (for which he went to jail).
As they talk of their lives after the event, questions creep in. Who was the seducer? How have they “moved on” or haven’t they? What more does she want? “I wanted you to be my boyfriend,” says Una of their past relationship, while castigating him for his actions. In a lengthy monologue she tells of what happened after they had sex and he left her alone in the room.
In his take on the events, he tells of why it took so long for him to return to her, of his conflicts, of being torn between cowardice and lust. In the years after his jail term, he’s tried to start a new life while she has had one lover after another.
The evening is a see-saw of emotions and supposed facts. Adults lie, children are manipulative and love is both illusive and elusive. The lunchroom where Ray and Una meet is, like their lives, filled with ugly, undigested leftovers. Surrounding the space are pristine, sterile offices, corridors and faceless voices, reminders that surfaces often hide what we don’t want to acknowledge.
When, in fits of confused emotions, they sweep the table clean, is it to have sex or kill one another? Or is that the same thing?
Director Joe Mantello has his actors go deeper and deeper as they try to untangle their feelings. An increasingly unkempt Jeff Daniels is both pitiful and despicable as he tries to hold himself together. His physical unraveling mirrors his emotional one. As Una, Alison Pill exists both as the child she was and the young lady she would like to be, but can’t. They’re both excellent, even if, in the long run, the play is less than meets the eye. That’s the after-impression. While you’re there, it’s dynamic.
David A. Rosenberg
May 2, 2007