BLACKBIRD

Written by David Harrower
Directed by Directed by Kim T. Sharp

Photo by Bjorn Bolinder

With its compelling subject matter, volatile characters, and minimal set requirements, David Harrowers’ acclaimed two hander would seem to be a perfect fit for a small, ambitious theater company. Unfortunately, the New Ohio Theatre Company doesn’t rise to the demands of the script and would do well to consider less challenging material. 

As the play begins, middle aged Ray (Lenny Grossman) is trying to shuffle through another uneventful day at the office and then go home to his family. His plans are disrupted when 27-year-old Una (Francesca Ravera) pays a surprise visit at Lenny’s place of work. Fearful that she’ll make a scene in front of his coworkers, Ray hustles Una into a slovenly room and tries to calm her down. At first, this appears be to a classic “woman scorned” scenario. As the layers of of plot peel away, though, we lean that this no Fatal Attraction setup. Yes, Ray and Una had a sexual relationship. And yes, she demands a reckoning. But there’s more to the story. Ray was forty years old at the time of their affair. Una was twelve. Ray has done prison time, survived being scorned by the media and shunned by former friends, and gradually blended back into society under an assumed name. Una’s unwelcome arrival threatens to upend the new life he’s worked so hard to build. Una has been less successful in moving on. She’s spent 15 years seeking to heal her pain through therapy, through trysts with multiple sex partners, and clearly nothing has worked. She needs to confront Ray face to face. The tables turn as Ray, once the powerful adult, is now vulnerable to Una’s threats. Perhaps she has a weapon in her purse, or plans to out him as a pedophile at his place of work. Then the balance of power shifts again as Una reveals her real reason for tracking down her former abuser.

The script stalls near the midpoint of the play, as Una and Ray begin backing over details details of their shared past. The word “remember” occurs numerous times as the two characters reconstruct the narrative of how their affair took shape, and much of this disclosure feels designed to convey information to the audience. Thankfully, Harrower skillfully moves past the exposition, into a more heated confrontation about the wounds left open by Ray’s seduction of abandonment of the child Una was at the time. 

BLACKBIRD continues through October 3, 2021 at the New Ohio Theater, 154 Christopher Street, New York, New York. Tickets: https://newohiotheatre.org/programs/new-ohio-hosts/blackbird/?_thumbnail_id=6079