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"Blackbird" Stars Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams at the Belasco Theatre

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Scott Rudin, Eli Bush, Roger Berlind, William Berlind
et al.

(Blackbird Website)

By David Harrower

Directed by Joe Mantello

Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams

Belasco Theatre
111 West 44th Street

Scenic Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Ann Roth
Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt
Sound Design: Fitz Patton
Casting: Caparelliotis Casting
Production Stage Manager: Jill Cordle
Press Representative: Philip Rinaldi
Company Manager: Megan Curren
Production Manager: Aurora Productions

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 29, 2016

David Harrower’s Blackbird, now at the Belasco Theatre, was first produced in London in 2007. This two character play, about Ray, a mid-fifty-ish pedophile, and Una, his former twelve year-old victim, takes place in Ray’s stark, ugly, office break room. Scott Pask has decorated with a worn-down vending machine, cheap table and chairs, and over-full trash basket. A door leads to the world of normality. Ray is now the prisoner of Una, who happened to see his photo on a business magazine ad in a doctor’s office and did some private research to acquire the location of a man who tormented her thoughts for the past fifteen years. He changed identities and towns after his related jail term, and now he has pushed Una into this temporarily private space to rush to save his reputation and job, should a co-worker discover Una’s backstory. Michelle Williams is a youthful, on edge, petite Una, and Jeff Daniels is a tall, muscular Ray, in comparison, allowing the audience to try to imagine Una’s experience at twelve.

In this angst-filled, gut-wrenching, intermission-less play, Ms. Williams portrays a conflicted Una, one who had hero-worshipped and obeyed the strong, adoring man, then in his forties. Bits and pieces of the logistics of the encounters, that had lasted three months, unfold at a rapid pace. We hear that Ray took Una to a motel near the sea (Harrower is from Scotland), then at some point Ray went for a walk, Una tried to find him but became lost, Ray returned to an empty motel room, and the adults who rescued Una called the police. Una had not seen Ray since that fateful day, fifteen years ago, until now. During the play, the two sit at opposite ends of the table, attack each other physically with internalized, opposing emotions, and neither Ray, nor the audience, knows what Una plans to do next. Anything was possible. The room even goes dark for a few moments, as it’s about closing time. There’s little relief from the tension, and, at the play’s finale, an even more disturbing revelation.

Mr. Daniels performs the role with a level of smirk and smugness that expand his character’s criminal core. At no one moment is there any level of remorse, except that he was found and now in danger of losing his job and a new relationship. Ms. Williams performs the role with a level of regression and neediness that expand her character’s paralyzed psyche. Joe Mantello could have directed to intensify Mr. Daniels’ shock and fear, and to intensify Ms. Williams’ growth into a determined woman. Both characters lacked focus and equilibrium. Brain MacDevitt’s lighting was appropriately unpleasant, as was this play.

Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels
in David Harrower's "Blackbird"
Courtesy of Brigitte Lacombe

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at