Two people who once had a passionate affair meet again in this gripping drama that has left audiences stunned in both London and New York. Emotions run high as the pair recall their relationship and attempt to come to terms with the shattering truth of their abandoned love.
Nominated for TWO 2009 Elliot Norton Awards:
Outstanding Director and Outstanding Actress.
Winner of the 2009 Elliot Norton Award
Outstanding Actress: Marianna Bassham.
Nominated for TWO 2009 IRNE Awards:
Best Actor and Best Actress.
Winner of the 2009 IRNE Award
Best Actress: Marianna Bassham.
If you’ve got a free evening and a thick skin, you must go see SpeakEasy’s production of “Blackbird.”
And if you haven’t got a free evening, make one. And if you haven’t got a thick skin, grow one. Just make sure you see it.
Director David R. Gammons has established himself as Boston’s go-to guy for gritty theater, and here he proves himself the reigning champ. It helps that he’s working with Bassham and Wilder, two top-notch actors who give career-making performances. Both seem to have subsumed Harrower’s characters into their psyches. Gammons leads them in a sort of dance in “Blackbird,” their attract/repel body language telling the story that their words conceal. Bassham, particularly, all but lays her innards bare. It’s shocking - and humbling - to witness.
...To sit through Gammons’ “Blackbird” is to take a trip into theater’s own heart of darkness. It isn’t easy. It certainly isn’t cozy. But it is unforgettable.
...if you agree with Edward Albee that playwrights should be slugging audiences in the face, the aptly named Harrower’ play (at SpeakEasy through March 21) is for you. It was for director David R. Gammons, who felt as if he’d been punched in the stomach after reading it. But don’t worry, you’ll feel no physical pain, except for at least one moment of almost unbearable tension.
...Gammons and his two actors, Marianna Bassham and Bates Wilder, make this play their own, with help from a crack design team.
...Gammons and Wilder and Bassham do a sterling job with the spare, half-sentence dialogue that has its roots in Pinter and Mamet, even if the rawness of the emotions and the surprise twists and turns are closer to what goes on in Neil LaBute’ dramatic universe. Gammons is Boston’ master of ultra-violence. He won an Elliot Norton Award for“Titus Andronicus” before moving on to such pleasant ditties as John Webster ’ “The Duchess of Malfi” and Martin McDonagh’ “The Lieutenant of Inishmore."
I won’t say whether there’ any violence in “Blackbird,” but the way Bassham slams a door or bats Wilder’ tie away attests to Gammons’ ability to transfer that punch in the stomach. And in this case, you needn’t be a masochist to appreciate such a well-delivered blow.
What can be written about "Blackbird" – a play so disturbing, yet so telling in its exploration of humanity’s contradictions on the dark side – that can convey the conflicting emotions of a viewer?
...Under David R. Gammons’ clinical direction, this production is the best example in a long time of drama needing little more than "two boards and a passion.'' The action of the play, set on designer Eric Levenson’s sterile re-creation of a garbage-strewn, corporate lunchroom under white fluorescent lights, is about a confrontation between Una and Ray, 15 years after their illicit affair.
...The image of the title, "Blackbird," is as disconcerting as the relationship between Una and Ray, making one think of birds of prey pecking at the vital organs of road-kill. But, as difficult as it is to watch the situation unravel, it is even harder to look away. I can guarantee that the issues between these people, coupled with the stories we’ve read in the press about sexual predators and the damage they inflict, yet enhanced by two virtuoso performances, will keep "Blackbird" with you long after the stage lights come down.
The SpeakEasy Stage Company
February 20 – March 21, 2009
Photos: David R. Gammons