Cap T: Ten Years in Austin
Home » featured, News

Statesman Reviews BLACKBIRD

15 September 2008

Review: Blackbird at Hyde Park Theatre

Blackbird may wind up being one of the most richly challenging plays for audiences this year.

Ray (Ken Webster) and Una (Xochitl Romero) meet and recount their relationship from 15 years ago, when he was in his 40s and she was 12. And that’s it.

There’s little action beyond their dialogue as they look for redemption and only as much plot progression as each audience member’s notion of how successful that journey is. There’s no time and no place beyond Ray’s generic office.

That limited frame, made even more claustrophobic by a low-hanging false ceiling, becomes a boiling kettle with no vent for the steam. Whenever catharsis, whether redemption, destruction, or sex, becomes a possibility, its quickly muted or counterbalanced by more tension.

Una ultimately fails to get the trial she never really experienced. In a long monologue recounting their last tryst, you expect and almost need a climax rage, something, anything! but even the worst details are recounted quietly, though not always calmly, by Romero. Ray doesn’t embrace his nature with playful superiority like Humbert Humbert; he argues against it, playing the role of a good man a loving man who made a bad choice. And Webster, with his mournful, reserved nature, is convincing.

It’s a feat to make that feel worthwhile while unsatisfying, but Romero and Webster do. Blackbird leaves the audience as the characters are left with instead of resolution just experience.

(Blackbird continues at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through Oct. 11 at Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd Street. $16-$18. 479-PLAY, www.hydeparktheatre.org.)

(Joey Seiler is a freelance theater critic and writer.)