Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blackbird (The SOB Review)

Blackbird (The SOB Review) – Studio Theatre, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

*** (out of ****)


Ever since that initial conversation I had with my parents in my earliest years about not taking candy from strangers, along with my mother’s admission that she could not stand actor James Mason simply because she could not separate him from his sinister role in "Lolita," the subject of pedophilia has always creeped me out.

Even as a teen, I was struck by the case of director Roman Polanski, who to this day remains a fugitive from justice after having plead guilty in 1977 to unlawful sexual acts with a thirteen year old girl.

So making matters infinitely creepier when finally taking in a mounting of David Harrower’s harrowing Blackbird -- this one at the St. Louis Repertory Theatre -- is that this production’s juvenile offender Ray (a perfectly chilling Christopher Oden) bears more than just a little resemblance to Polanski. Director Amy Saltz could not have found a better actor to tackle this difficult, nuanced role.

Years earlier as a 40 year old, Ray had succumbed to the seemingly wily temptations of the twelve year old Una. Now, having relocated and establishing a new identity and family, the hunter becomes the hunted as Ray is unexpectedly visited by the adult Una (an astounding and equally complex Carmen Goodine), seeking to confront him. Blackbird is built around their tête-à-tête, which becomes heated and emotional with surprising results.

The questions in Blackbird ultimately hinge on whether minors really have the clarity of judgment to engage in sexual relationships without longterm consequences. Can they truly understand and appreciate what they are doing? And no matter how sexually precocious a minor may seem, don't adults still have a responsibility to maintain clarity of thought and mind particularly because minors do not?

Given the psychological mess Una ultimately proves to be, Harrower's provocative answers appear to be that there's a reason why minors are considered such. With the excellent performances offered by Oden and Goodine, all creepiness aside, I recommend this show.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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