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Candace Hammer and Eric Larsen in Blackbird at Grove Theatre Center. (Photo by Jess Nurse)
Candace Hammer and Eric Larsen in Blackbird at Grove Theatre Center. (Photo by Jess Nurse)

Blackbird

Reviewed by Lovell Estell III
GTC Burbank
Through Sept. 17 

RECOMMENDED

David Harrower’s edgy psychodrama has had many successful iterations over the years (most recently at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival), and now comes to Burbank’s Grove Theatre Center for a limited run. It’s a cheerless account of love and sexual obsession, as well as a stark glimpse of the collision of past and present.

Inside a pallid, trash-strewn office lunch room, Una (Candace Hammer) suddenly turns up to confront Ray (Eric Larson), the man whose illegal sexual relationship with her years earlier (she was 12, he was 40), landed him in jail. Having since rebuilt his life, he’s shaken to the marrow by this blunt reminder of his unsavory past (“Are you shocked?” she asks. “Of course,” he blurts out.)

Una, understandably, is filled with suppressed rage, and it initially emerges with venomous potency; at one point she tells Ray that she would love to rip out his eyes and “stamp on them.” But gradually a more specific narrative emerges about their brief, months-long affair — one that brings into sharp relief the “whatness,” of their destructive attraction for each other. A subtle and not so subtle game of seducer and seduced, victimizer and victim, is played out, with Una and Ray psychologically and emotionally slugging away at each other, and often circling the table in the room like animals about to strike. The charged, enigmatic finale raises more questions about the nature of Ray’s feelings for Una, and his seeming attraction to young girls.

On balance, this is a good production, with convincing, emotionally tuned performances. Director Jeremy Adrianne Lelliott does an excellent job of exploiting the play’s atmospheric density.

 

Grove Theatre Center, 1100 W. Clark Ave., Burbank. Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun. 7 p.m. (571) 232-8894 or www.blackbirdplay.com . Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

 

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