By Sandi Durell
Scottish playwright David Harrower’s drama, Blackbird, offers up an intensity of emotional fire in this revival starring two major forces – Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams at the Belasco Theater.
In the drab lunch room of a corporate pharmaceutical office (design by Scott Pask, lit by Brian MacDevitt), past catches up with present when this May-December couple meet 15 years later. Williams, who plays Una, is now in her 20s, skinny, flitty and flirty, her thin legs bare, her dress paper thin (costumes by Ann Roth) making their own obvious statements as she’s come to confront her past and her predator/lover Ray (now known as Peter), a rather large framed man, in comparison to her, who is more than noticeably frightened by her presence as he pleads with her to leave.
Their broken dialogue seems meaningless as they verbally dance around each other until the story unfolds. She was 12 when her father invited Ray over for a barbecue; he was about 40 at the time. She more than noticed him, subsequently leaving notes on his car and luring him, so it seems, into an illicit, sexual affair for 3 months. The upshot is that he was caught, accused of statutory rape and imprisoned. It’s not that Una hated him for what he did, but for leaving her after he did it. The judge even noted her “suspiciously adult yearnings.”
And now she needed to face him, accuse him and rage at him, and both needed the catharsis of reliving their love affair. But who is the perpetrator and who is the victim? Joe Mantello’s direction is a perfect warm up for the blazing fire that erupts into a nightmare as they go at each other physically, forcefully and accusingly – – – Una releasing in a 12 minute monologue of how she delighted in her relationship with him until he abandoned her.
Ray now has a new life, a new name, a new job and a new girlfriend, all of which he doesn’t want to lose but it’s obvious that when Una, once again, lures him physically and sexually, he’s ready to lose it all.
This is a gripping and sometimes terrifying look into human frailty, at times, difficult to watch and endure. But aren’t those the feelings great theater is supposed to elicit? Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams are at the top of their game!
Blackbird. At the Belasco Theater, running time 1 hr. 20 min (no intermission) www.blackbirdbroadway.com
Photos: Brigitte Lacombe