South Stream Productions’ Blackbird, a 2005 one-act drama by Scottish playwright and screenwriter David Harrower, is inspired by the 2002 abduction of a 12-year-old British girl by a former U.S. Marine. The subject of Harrower’s play is an intense reunion between a sex offender and his former victim.
South Stream Productions’ director and scenic designer Brook North stages this counterplay — taking place entirely in an office break room — as an uncomfortable game of cat-and-mouse. The tense and economic staging, combined with Harrower’s rapid-fire dialogue, often leaves the audience wondering which character is the predator and which is the prey. Or are they one in the same? North’s set is pure corporate America — a washed-out palette of whites, blues, and greys.
Equally bleak is Alyssa Petrone’s lighting design, though that bleakness subtly warms and intensifies to highlight an important emotional moment. The blue coldness of the office is appropriate, but more overhead lighting is needed to prevent such a front-lit look.
Katie Barrett gives this monochromatic world a burst of fiery red, channeling Una’s fears of abandonment with tenderness, but turning quickly into a ferocious, caged animal when old traumas are brought to the forefront. Barrett maintains strength and stability, with a counterbalance from John Honeycutt, whose bewildered Ray is appropriately unsteady and weak in contrast. An endearing Marleigh Purgar-McDonald helps deliver the third part of Harrower’s one-two-three emotional punch.
This roller-coaster creeps hesitantly toward its initial peak; and when it finally tips, the emotional ride is equally thrilling and horrifying. Precise, rhythmic dialogue, highly tense staging, and dynamic performances make South Stream’s Blackbird a must-see production. A film adaptation, called Una and starring Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn, opens in cinemas later this month. Harrower himself adapted the play for the screen.
Blackbird runs approximately 80 minutes, with no intermission. It lands in Rated R territory for language and sexually graphic dialogue.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 4th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/blackbird/Event?oid=5093517. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 7th Triangle Review review by Martha Keravuori and Chuck Galle, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/01/john-honeycutt-and-katie-barrett-give-tour-de-force-performances-in-south-streams-blackbird/ and the Jan. 7th review by Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/01/south-stream-productions-blackbird-is-an-emotional-roller-coaster/ and http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/01/south-stream-productions-blackbird-takes-flight-at-sonorous-road-theatre/, 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 https://sonorousroadtheatre.com/get-tickets.
SHOW: http://southstreamproductions.blogspot.com/p/blackbird-by-david-harrower.html, https://www.facebook.com/events/1152773561474370/, and https://sonorousroadtheatre.com/blackbird/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1284004843/blackbird-by-david-harrower-0.
NEWS RELEASES: http://southstreamproductions.blogspot.com/.
PRESENTER: http://southstreamproductions.blogspot.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/SouthStreamProductions/.
VENUE: https://sonorousroadtheatre.com/, https://www.sonorousroad.com/, https://www.facebook.com/sonorousroad/, and https://twitter.com/sonorousroad.
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): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=3892 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackbird_(play) (Wikipedia). The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
David Harrower (Scottish playwright and screen writer): https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/david-harrower (British Council | Literature), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3017670/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Harrower (Wikipedia).
Dustin K. Britt is a Triangle native, holds a master’s degree in special education from East Carolina University, and teaches locally. He can be spotted all over the Triangle area either painting scenery or chewing o n it. He has received local theater award nominations for doing both. He is a devoted cinephile and author of Hold the Popcorn, a movie blog on Facebook. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment He can also be found via his official Facebook page and on Twitter @dkbritt85.