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Review: 'Blackbird'

(c) For All Events.com

May 6, 2007



By Charles Jarrett

"Blackbird singing in the dead of night – take these sunken eyes and learn to see, all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free, blackbird fly, blackbird fly - - -!"

American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco is currently presenting David Harrower's Blackbird, a riveting play that allows us to witness the very private and gut-wrenching attempt by two individuals to confront head-on and make sense out of a criminal event that occurred more than a dozen years earlier. Because of the controversial, mature, graphic, and sexual nature of the material explored in this play, it is strongly suggested that admission be restricted to those 16 years of age and older.

A no-holds barred confrontation takes place in the lunch room of an industrial warehouse as a young woman and a mature man, face, for the first time in over a dozen years, the sexual events that took place between them years earlier. She was a precocious12 year old and he was a man nearly three times her age. This event sent the man to prison and the plunged the girl into a dark abyss of rejection and self-incrimination. Was it lust, or love, or something far more sinister? Will this confrontation ferret out the truth or will it reinforce the lies, distortions, and recriminations? Will it bring resolution or redemption or will it rekindle the anger, frustration, and agonies of events that took place on that fateful night?

The play asks many questions, such as why we are so determined to "get at the truth", when the truth is always so elusive. Will our examination of this story allow us to be more open minded and understanding and willing to hear both sides of similar events with less prejudice?

Ray (Steven Culp) has struggled over the years to leave the events of that night behind him. He has changed his name, moved to a different area far away from where the event occurred, and established new relationships.

Una (Jessi Campbell) has moved on as well, but the passage of time has not been so kind to her. Forced by her parents to continue to live in the same area, Una has endured ridicule and recrimination and has continued to define her rage and frustration in an ever-darkening prison, an ever-expanding rebellion that has led her into deeper self-destructive behavior.

When she accidentally discovers the current employment location of the man, that she as a child had sex with, she comes to his place of employment to confront him, to get some long festering questions answered. She needs to vent her anger, to ask him face to face why he left her, to hear from his own lips what events actually transpired that reshaped the events of that evening. She must determine in her own mind if he was a man who truly had loved her, as he said he did, or was he, as so many have chided her, simply a pedophile who selected her as a target.

When the play is over, the play is not over, not in our own minds. For days following the production, I am still asking myself about it, about the nature of truth, the ability of people to distort the truth and to mold it to their own purpose. How sad it is that there is no magic truth serum that one can employ at will to elicit the "whole truth and nothing but the truth", when one desperately needs "the truth."

The acting is superb, the production is "riveting", to say the least. There is one more actress, Portia Juliette, a young lady who makes a brief but stunning appearance.

Blackbird continues Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m, now through Sunday, May 27th. Tickets range in price between $17.50 and $81.50 each. To purchase tickets, call or visit ACT Ticket Services at 405 Geary Street (at Mason) or call (415) 749-2228 or purchase tickets on line at act-sf.org. The American Conservatory Theatre is located at 415 Geary Street in San Francisco.

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