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Blackbird starring Michelle Williams & Jeff Daniels

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

From the moment Michelle Williams as Una is escorted/dragged into an office breakroom (scattered with leftover munchies and an overflowing trash can) where she has unexpectedly located Ray (Jeff Daniels) we can see that she is distraught – ready for a nervous breakdown with her speech pattern and tics. She is ready to explode. And so she does. Ray is just as disturbed by her presence. In the next 90 minutes they will explore their past.

She was 12. He was 40 when they met at a party. His name was Peter. He flirted. She flirted. They went off together. He raped her and spent a weekend in some hotel where he eventually abandoned her. Or did he? In any event he spent jail time for his actions. Her life was ruined. He changed his name to Ray and began a new life. That is until Una discovered a photograph of him in a trade magazine and decided to hunt him down.

She is now 27. He is 55. The past has caught up with them both. Let the battle begin.

The set by Scott Pask is antiseptic – a cool blue grey office with frosted glass panels (so that we can see the shadow of other office workers passing) and a well-lit snack machine. He leaves the door ajar. She slams it shut.

It’s been fifteen years as playwright David Harrower explores the ramifications of their relationship and his sexual abuse of a minor in this Broadway premiere. Both Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels take his words – sometimes graphic descriptions of what occurred - and make them frighteningly authentic. By plays end they are both wiped out emotionally as is the audience of voyeurs which we have become – willingly or unwillingly.

Wearing a soft short flowery dress (Ann Roth) Una has come to confront her demons. It really doesn’t matter how she found him. She found him. And you would too if what happened to her happened to you. But who ultimately was responsible? Who is telling the absolute truth?

As directed by Joe Mantello it’s a raw tango of telling the truth. It’s fascinating. And disturbing. Only a couple of missteps that have nothing to do with the actors. A semi blackout where the snack machine remains lit and the underscoring of Una’s monologue with ominous music.

They bait each other. Taunt each other. Grapple with each other and “share” a bottle of water. What’s with these two? Are they still attached somehow? Is Ray really repentant?
The shocking and unexpected ending will only cause more conversation about the answer to that question.

Limited engagement through June 12, 2016. At the Belasco Theatre. Recommended.

Photo: Brigitte Lacombe