Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reflection - Blackbird

I just got back from seeing Blackbird at Studio Theater and it was absolutely incredible, one of the single best written, well acted, and most powerful performances I have ever seen. It's an incredible shame that today was the last performance of this particular production because I would unequivocally reccomend it. The performances by area vet Jerry Whiddon and hopefully up and coming New Yorker Lisa Joyce were phenomenal, the direction under David Muse was spot on, and David Harrower's script is probably the one I have had the most visceral reaction to since i first saw Patrick Marber's Closer.

There's a reason for that.

Both of those plays are undeniably and unashamedly modern. We're conditioned so often in theater and film and television, and everything, to expect a watered down version of conflict, of language. Not violence, we see that in all it's gruesome and bloody detail. But words, incredibly passionate vile and dirty words are so rarely used to their full effect that actually hearing them passionately and gloriously uttered in unflinching truth is like a call to arms. So when I heard a young woman honestly and provokingly demand of her past abuser and hopeful would be future lover whether he still masterbated over the image of her twelve year old body, it brought me back in all the best ways to Larry demanding from Anna "What does it taste like?" only to hear "It tastes like you but sweeter."

It's that kind of play.

It's the kind of play that asks incredibly difficult questions without offering any concrete answers and still feels satisfying. It's the kind of play that is utterly in your face and at the same time covers all it's bases my presenting a multi-faceted look at characters so absolutely real that their pain and needs are open like wounds. It's the kind of play that requires actors willing to bare a kind of honesty that the average human being would run crying from in our regular lives.

It's no secret that Jerry Whiddon is like a mentor to me. Working with him on The Crucible at UMD was a revelation to me, and directly led to me pursuing directing as a passion and career. Since then I've had the opportunity to work with and learn from him several times as both an actor and assistant, and am blessed to have several more projects lined up. In the three or four years I've known him I've never seen him act. I was told by my boss that however good a director is (and he's great, the former artistic director of Round House for 20 years) he was ten times the actor he is a director. Not a knock on his directing, just a clarification on just how good he is.
I got to see that tonight.

Lisa Joyce was utterly phenomenal. Her character has a monologue midawy through the play that is a game changing event, and I was with it every single second, every single word. We've been talking a lot on this blog about women who are the victim's of abuse. While we;ve been focusing on domestic violence, this wa still an incredibly impactful time for me to see this show. Too often victims become just that - victims. Lessons, stories, statistics - but what they really are are PEOPLE. This was a person onstage - carrying the weight of abuse, and even more frightening and amazing and sad the weight of love despite it.

The basic premise of Blackbird is that a young woman has finally tracked down the man who slept with her when she was twelve. But it's so much more than that, and so much more complicated. There are moments of utter revulsion, and amazingly moments where the two of them kissing and or almost fucking on the floor doesn't only seem normal, but what you WANT to happen, even when you absolutely don't.
It's people being real people, as utterly fucked as that always turns out to be.

And that language. Brutal, beautiful, harsh, and poetic.
It's the kind of work I aspire one day to write, and the kind of theater I want to create.

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