Review | Blackbird: powerful, creepy

Dark And Stormy Productions, 77 13th Ave NE — in the Grain Belt Brewery complex — through Jan 5

Luverne Seifert and Sara Marsh in BLACKBIRD. Photo by Megan Engeseth.

The past, as the swamis never tire of telling us, is a meaningless abstraction. Ditto the future. There is only the ineffable Now, the shining wellspring of happiness and contentment.

But what do you do when the past is the source of endless shame, torment and sick fantasy? And it’s inescapable. How can you live? Do you change your name and engage in a long series of sordid sexual affairs? Or do you, can you, somehow, face the demons?

This question is neatly posed in David Harrower‘s harrowing Blackbird (Dark and Stormy Productions, 77 13th Ave. NE, through Jan 5). The title signifies… I don’t know what. See the play and figure for yourself. Anyway:

In Blackbird, Una (Sara Marsh) and Ray (Luverne Seifert) meet in a trash-strewn break room in a nameless company where Ray has, apparently, a menial job. Una calmly states the basic situation: years ago, in another city, under another name, Ray had sex with 12 year old Una. At first he denies this but soon acknowledges the truth of her accusation. Una, it slowly becomes clear, has another agenda, besides her understandable about-to-barf hostility. As does Ray; something about this woman pulls on him, draws him in. “How is this good?” he demands. “I feel like a ghost.” “You left me – in love.” “Do you think about me?” she asks and he replies, “It’s all I have.” Scary, disturbing stuff, presented in a sweaty and very intimate theater.

It makes perfect sense that a play about the eerie presence of the past would have long past-tense sections and Harrower’s play indeed does suffer from this. There are long set piece speeches that are hard to follow. Blackbird will make you squirm in more ways that one.

But the two actors are very good. Marsh (who appears, according to my often faulty calculations, in virtually every Dark and Stormy play) does wonders with the difficult role of Una. As Una’s motivation changes, Marsh makes us stay with her. When Una… Well, never mind what Una does. Marsh makes it make sense. Seifert’s work is simpler, more straight forward, effective. Kudos to Michaela Johnson who directs forcefully.

‘Tis the season, as you know. In this time of feel-good Christmas plays, it’s refreshing to find a play like Blackbird, a play with real meat on its bones. See it.

John Olive is a writer living in Minneapolis. His book, Tell Me A Story In The Dark, about the magic of bedtime stories, has been published. John’s The Voice Of The Prairie has been performed 100 plus times and ditto Minnesota Moon and his adaptation of Sideways Stories From Wayside School. Please visit John’s informational website.


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