By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy
Running Time: 80 minutes with no intermission
Sometimes theatre is created to simply entertain and help one escape the realities of life and sometimes it’s created to make one think and, sometimes, that’s uncomfortable, depending on the subject matter but it’s OK. Being a traditionalist and loving theatre that makes me smile and tap my foot and giving me a happy ending, I certainly understand and appreciate the importance of theatre that makes one step out of his or her comfort zone and is in your face about issues we don’t like to talk about in public. Fells Point Corner Theatre‘s latest offering, Blackbird by David Harrower, with Direction and Set Design by Anthony Lane Hinkle and Sound and Light Design by Christoper Flint is the latter; up close and personal with the audience, making them look into an uncomfortable issue that makes for an enlightening, intense evening of theatre that’s not to be missed.
Presented in the intimate upstairs Sokal Stage, this production very effectively puts the issue of sexual abuse, quite literally, in the face of the audience and forces them to look and listen. The setting is a very unkempt break room in some office building on the outside of London and the absolute mess of a room mirrors the issue at hand and is a perfect setting with trash all over the floor and on the tables and counters. At first glance Set Design by Anthony Lane Hinkle seems over simplified, simply throwing trash all over the stage, but, thinking deeper and associating it with the mixed up emotions and confusion that makes up sexual abuse, Hinkle gives us an intelligent, well thought-out design that is absolutely befitting of this production.
Along with Set Design, Hinkle’s Direction of Blackbird is stellar. He forces his actors to make choices in a tight space with intense situations and guides them into the right choices for this piece. He throws a whole lot in your face in only 80 minutes and though the action seems a bit rushed, there’s almost no choice as this piece hits the ground running from the moment the characters step onto the stage. Though the overall intensity of this piece is high, it is a roller coaster of frenzy and calm that Hinkle manages to balance nicely.
The performance of this piece is outstanding and both Steve Shriner and Ann Turiano give powerful performances.
Steve Shriner, last seen in his hilarious performance of Mother Superior in Fells Point Corner Theatre’s production of The Divine Sister, make a complete 180 degree turn for this production. He is a proven comedic actor but his dramatic chops are on point, as well. He is so in tune with his character, Ray, not once did I see a hint of true regret or remorse for the sordid relationship with a 12-year-old girl years before. Nor did I see any attempt to apologize because though this character realizes what he did was legally wrong, he truly doesn’t believe it was emotionally wrong at all, allowing him to move on with his life. All this combined makes for a complex, somewhat pathetic character that Shriner plays beautifully.
Ann Turiano, as Una, the young victim in this relationship, now a seemingly confident woman plays this part superbly and with ease. She is comfortable in this role and her very purposeful movements express the childish 12-year-old Una once was as well as the brave, confident woman she has become who doesn’t seem to know what she wants from this meeting. Una’s relationship with Ray is complicated but open as she talks to him bluntly about having sex all those years back and Turiano is no-holds-barred when it comes to the dialogue or getting in your face. Her strong performance is not one to be missed this season.
Final thought… Blackbird at Fells Point Corner Theatre is a poignant, raw, powerful, and unapologetic look at not only sexual abuse, but it’s long term effects. Without making judgment or defending, this piece takes a serious look into both sides of abuse and tells a story only victim and predator can tell. It’ll make you angry, it’ll make you uncomfortable, it’ll make you feel sorry for everyone involved, and it will make you think long and hard about this unfortunate truth in our world. You don’t want to miss this production so get your tickets while they last.
This is what I thought of Fells Point Corner Theatre’s production of Blackbird.
Check out what The Bad Oracle thought here: https://thebadoracle.com/2017/01/16/blackbird-the-dead-of-night/
What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Blackbird will play through January 29 at Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S Ann Street, Baltimore, MD. For Tickets, go to fpct.org for information or purchase them online.