Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 7, 2008


Chester Theatre Company
Chester, MA
Now through July 13, 2008
July 3, 2008
By Donna Bailey-Thompson

Some may view this taut, suspenseful pas de deux through two prisms – a baggage-loaded May/December romantic drama or a case study of the after effects generated by the seduction of an innocent girl by a man more than three times her age. Or, there’s a third option – a prism that combines both interpretations.

First performed in Edinburgh in 2005, then London in 2006, and New York in 2007, David Harrower’s script is a high wire act that evokes empathy for the broken heart of Una (Rebecca Brooksher) now 27 and disdain for Ray (Steve Hendrickson) now 56 who maintains that as a 40-year-old man, his seduction of 12-year-old Una was an act of love. But, is he rationalizing? Was it, instead, what therapists have been trumpeting for years, an act to enhance the seducer’s power? Or did the fates play games with timing – Ray was born too soon and Una too late because, really, they were foreordained to meet and love? But because of a quirk in the calendar, they are, instead, destined to continue their lives as walking wounded, burdened with questions that can’t be answered?

Presented without an intermission avoids interrupting the escalation of Una and Ray’s charged emotions; the two actors embodiment of the star-crossed lovers demonstrates they have embraced their characters’ back story. "Blackbird" is lyrical, abrasive, tender, brutal, confrontational, and occasionally peppered with vernacular language. The sterility of the set – a lunch room in a manufacturing plant – designed by Regina Garcia – points up how equally bleak are Una and Ray’s lives. Director Sheila Siragusa varies the tempo of the showdown, from the melancholy to entreaties to eruptive anger and ultimately, what next? She directed last season’s "Mercy of a Storm" starring Mr. Hendrickson who three days before "Blackbird" was to open, responded to Artistic Director Byam Stevens’ SOS by stepping into the role of Ray thus proving that experience (ah, those actor’s chops) made it possible for a compelling show to go on.

New this season: pending seating availability, Chester Theatre Company is offering patrons free tickets to see a production for a second time. Just show proof of purchase (original ticket).