John Honeycutt and Katie Barrett Give Tour-de-Force Performances in Blackbird

John Honeycutt and Katie Barrett sparkle in Blackbird (photo by Jennifer Sanderson)
John Honeycutt and Katie Barrett sparkle in Blackbird (photo by Jennifer Sanderson)
John Honeycutt and Katie Barrett sparkle in <em>Blackbird</em> (photo by Jennifer Sanderson)
John Honeycutt and Katie Barrett sparkle in Blackbird (photo by Jennifer Sanderson)

South Stream Productions raises questions, questions, questions. Playwright David Harrower lives up to his name with a crushing journey through a scarily delicate topic. Blackbird is a play that premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2005. (It is reported the play’s title comes from having the song “Bye Bye, Blackbird” playing as Harrower wrote it.)

The play asks, “Did a 40-year-old man fall in love with a 12-year-old girl, or was it some less human set of emotions?” By her own confession, she flirted with him, and had sex with him. He ended up serving three years in prison for that. During an 80-minute, nonstop, impassioned roller-coaster ride, we are left to sort out pedophilia from some cherishable bond between the two people involved, 15 years after their three-month affair ended.

John Honeycutt and Katie Barrett have flashed charismatically together before, in Time Stands Still a year ago. Under the able direction of Brook North, they have excelled again. North uses every bit of the stage, and keeps his performers in tune with each other in the same way a couple of boxers are.

In many cases, it is an actor’s responsibility to reveal more about his character than his character would want revealed. John Honeycutt, in a tour-de-force performance, never allows us inside. His character’s protestations of love reveal neither love nor a covering up of darker lusts, and we suspect that is precisely what the author intended. Even to the obsession aroused by a smudge on his shirt, we are treated to no underlying neurosis, just a little peccadillo? Is Ray a pedophile or seriously misguided, lonely lover? We get no clues.

Katie Barrett, while in perfect concert, manages to reveal much of her character’s growth and stunting, as a result of the trauma that her fully adult seducer has brought into her life. A slightly precocious child has developed into an angry, predatory, unstable 27 year old. Her 10-minute soliloquy, telling of the night she sought after him, fearing yet refusing to believe he has deserted her, and its effect on her since, is brilliantly presented. Katie nailed it.

Marleigh Purger-McDonald proves there are no small parts. Her important appearance shines, fitting appropriately into the professionalism of the production.

Todd Houseknecht supplies us a sterile and yet well-trashed break room for the action to occur in. No dramatics, here, by golly, just a place to grab a snack, drop the wrapper on the floor and get back to work. Perfect.

Alyssa Petrone’s lighting sustains the illusion; and at one point is so on-cue that it’s breathtaking. Fight choreographer Heather J. Strickland creates a tussle that is uncomfortably real.

Don’t let the cold weather stop you from seeing this fine production of Blackbird, which runs through Jan. 22nd.

SECOND OPINION: Jan. 4th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 7th Triangle Review review by Dustin K. Britt, click and the Jan. 7th review by Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud, click and, respectively.)

South Stream Productions presents BLACKBIRD at 3 p.m. Jan. 8, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12-14, 3 p.m. Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19-21, 3 p.m. Jan. 22 at Sonorous Road Theatre, 209 Oberlin Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27605.

TICKETS: $20 ($16 students and seniors).

BOX OFFICE: 919-803-3798 or


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NOTE: The show’s 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7th, performance has been CANCELLED, due to snow and ice.


Blackbird (2005 Edinburgh International Festival play): (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.) and (Wikipedia).

The Script: (Google Books).

David Harrower (Scottish playwright and screen writer): (British Council | Literature), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).


Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.