Both actors are at the top of their games in “Blackbird,”
Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.’s opening salvo of a season with the
theme, “Two-Sided.” Peppermint’s artistic director Chad Badgero
promises that “no situation is simply black or white,” and in “Blackbird,"
Doak Bloss and Angela Mishler confirm this in a production that leaves
the audience emotionally bruised and battered, spiritually black and
blue. This is not a play for the faint of heart, yet it is a play that
stirs the soul.
We do not live in a world in which we are often invited
to examine the reasons, the motives or the impulses and the behaviors
of those adults who find themselves sexually attracted to children.
Immediately, reactively, almost instinctively, we are
repulsed, often enraged. We are quick to condemn and even demonize the
individual who is caught engaging in these acts. But are all these
cases the same? Is there a single ideological, politically correct
perspective that explains each situation? Are they all issues of power,
mortal sins, evil personified? Are perpetrators themselves previous
victims, or do they have underlying inadequacy issues?
“Blackbird” is just one of these stories. Writer David
Harrower pits perpetrator against the victim in what at first appears
to be a process of reconciliation; then, through twists and turns,
Harrower confirms that not every action we take in life is completely
Bloss is Ray, a now-60-something man whose life has been
made tortuously difficult by a choice he made in his early 40s. Mishler
is Una, once a 12-year-old, now older but maybe not wiser, whose early
sexual experience with Ray has scarred and wounded her.
Together, they dance their way through differing
recollections of what actually happened, how they came to the moments
that came close to ruining their lives entirely.
Bloss portrays Ray as a man who has done a lot of
therapeutic work to both understand and forgive himself for his earlier
actions, while Mishler recounts the impact of his actions and her
participation in this affair and the trauma that has since ensued.
Emotionally, they display a wide range of feelings,
their voices disappearing at times to an effective stage whisper and
rising at other points to roaring enragement. There are moments of
frightening violence and tender remembrances, all played powerfully and
with great authenticity.
Clearly, the audience struggles with the notion of
finding Ray to be an honorable man. A wrinkle in the story appears in
the final moments to further complicate that struggle.
“Blackbird” takes on a horrendously messy heinous issue
and amplifies its complexity and the difficulty in attempting to
understand it, both for those who have been caught up in the situation
and for audience members observing it as well.
Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.
8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1
226 E. Grand River Ave.,
$15 adults; $10 students and seniors