Review: Victory Garden’s “Blackbird”

 

Blackbird confrontation

Blackbird

a play by David Harrower

Reviewed by Timothy McGuire

The much anticipated dramatic play Blackbird, staring William Peterson and Mattie Hawkinson is indeed quite disturbing; it gives humanity to both a child molester and his victim as their characters are presented on stage un-judged by the author David Harrower.

blackbird_mattie&william David Harrower has written a soul-stirring play that shows the complexity of human emotions and the struggle we have with guilt and being honest with ourselves. David Harrower does not try to justify Ray’s action nor is in favor of abolishing the age limit for sexual maturity, he sees his work as more of a metaphor for questioning other social norms. Harrower lets the characters stumble through their emotions, not demonizing or giving false purity to either character. Both characters show their humanity, with flaws and wrongful desires along with kindness and love. How horrible a crime was committed is left to the audience to think about and decide, Ray and Una struggle on stage to find that out for themselves.

Fifteen years ago when Ray was in his forties, he befriended a twelve year old girl Una. After serving three years in prison for child abduction, he has painfully put together a new life. After seeing a picture of Ray in a magazine at her doctor’s office Una has come to confront her past assailant. In Ray’s empty office cafeteria the emotional confrontation between them goes in unexpected directions as the molester and victim meet, or possibly it is past lovers meeting again.

blackbird_arguing William Peterson sucks the life out of his character to portray a beat-down Ray just fighting to get from day to day. Peterson’s ability to darken his emotions and stumble with the confidence to express himself is extraordinary. The choices Ray made in his past were absolutely wrong, but what was his motive? How did he let himself form a relationship with a twelve year old girl? William Peterson captures Ray’s inner struggle with the guilt of his actions and the justifications he believes means something.

William Peterson is a star, but this show belongs to Mattie Hawkinson.

Ms. Hawkinson, capturing her character’s poised and nervous state, came on to the stage as Una and through out her personal conversation with Ray keeps the audience glued to her with their attention. With just two characters in most of the play, Mattie proves that she belonged on stage with the best of them. After watching my favorite actor (William Peterson) the first comment I had when I left the theatre was “Get ready for Mattie Hawkinson.” This should be a break out performance to a great career.

blackbird meetingThe set, a cold, desolate cafeteria, was designed by Dean Taucher, and he presents a set that, thought simplistic, is actually very detailed. The remains of coworkers’ lunches are left strewn about, just another mess in the typical unfinished cleaning-up that takes place in a cafeteria. The room that earlier in the day was busy with people and filled with life is now completely empty until the next morning, like the void that fills both Una and Ray’s heart since their earlier relationship. The setting never leaves the office cafeteria and the time of the day expels a creepy lonesome feeling. It seems strange a victim of a sexual crime would meet her predator there.

Blackbird won the Olivier Award (Britain’s equivalent of a Tony Award) for best new play in 2007, beating out tough competition with plays such as Peter Morgan’s “Frost/Nixon” and Tom Stoppard’s” Rock and Roll.” Making its Chicago premier at Victory Gardens, Director Dennis Zacek allows the unique text and talented actors carry the one act conversation.

Blackbird possesses that unique quality found in theatre of presenting a topic that forces the audience to an uncomfortable edge, as their skin crawls with the thought of empathizing with ideas that go against their moral core. It forces you to question the most reviled actions in society, leading one to question personal crimes you have committed and how it would play out if you were confronted with the past fifteen years later.

Rating: «««½

Where: Victory Gardens Theatre
When: Thru – Aug 9, 2009
Tickets: $30-$58, Box Office: 773-871-3000

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Megon McDonough and “The Mistress Cycles” at the Auditorium Theatre stage

This Saturday – On Stage with Megon McDonough

 

On stage with…Megon McDonough

Dates: Saturday, July 18, 2009
Times: 8:00 p.m.
Price: $50; $75

Step ONTO our stage, take a seat at a table, order a drink and enjoy the show. Our summer series treats the audience to an unforgettable performance while enjoying a rare vantage point typically reserved for the performer – the stage.

"Megon is truly one of the most gifted and authentic of performers." – Bill Campbell, ABC7

Best known for her work as one of the inaugural members of the Four Bitchin’ Babes, singer, songwriter and entertainer Megon McDonough will perform signature songs of platinum divas who sang from stage, screen, music halls and clubs right into the hearts of audiences around the country. Her debut Auditorium performance will include songs by the ladies of the British Invasion – Petula Clark, Lulu and Dusty Springfield, along with American counterparts Judy Collins, Janis Ian and Janis Joplin.

THREE EASY WAYS TO PURCHASE TICKETS:
Online:
TicketMaster.com
Phone: 312.922.2110 ext. 300
In person: Auditorium Box Office, 50 E. Congress Parkway (open Monday-Friday noon-6pm)

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Coming up next on the Auditorium Theatre Stage:

 

mistress-cycleThe Mistress Cycle

Dates: July 22 – August 8
Times: various, see below
Price: $49

 

The Auditorium presents Apple Tree Theatre‘s production of Jenny Giering and Beth Blatt’s The Mistress Cycle

For this event, the Auditorium stage is transformed into an intimate black box theatre-in-a-theatre, seating 200. 

The Mistress Cycle breaks the mold of the traditional book musical, instead offering audiences a “song cycle” that illuminates stories of passion, sacrifice and strength of spirit. The Mistress Cycle explores the lives and loves of five notorious mistresses: Tess Walker, a contemporary Manhattan photographer; Anais Nin, the famed sexual adventurer of the early 20th century; Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of King Henri II of 16th century France; Lulu White, a turn-of-the-century New Orleans bordello Madame; and Ching, a 14-year-old concubine in 12th century China.

Directed by Kurt Johns
Musical Direction by Diana Lawrence

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