'Blackbird' at Rogue Machine

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Sam Anderson and Corryn Cummins in 'Blackbird' (photo by John Flynn).

David Harrower's taboo exploring drama, Blackbird, is currently at Rogue Machine. This single scene one act depicts a tension wracked meeting between Una and Ray, 15 years after their pedophilic sexual affair when Una was still a child. Throughout the course of the plot, the characters of Harrower's script slowly reveal opposing emotional complexities that are both ugly and compelling in nature. Blackbird is a well-rounded, high-quality production that offers a clever set, eclipsing direction, and daring performances.

The Blackbird cast plays the functionally unstable characters with realistic fragility and flawed inclinations. Sam Anderson is superb in the role of Ray, bringing multitudes to the meek deviant. Skillfully drawing synchronal sympathy and loathing from the audience, he evokes a trapped animal motivated by fear and disconcerted curiosity. Corryn Cummins presents the justifiably deranged Una as childlike and tumultuous. Initially appearing somewhat uncomfortable in her role, Cummins quickly opens up to give a strong and impassioned performance. Anderson and Cummins share appropriately uneasy, yet potent stage chemistry as they rhythmically pass the predatory torch during the play.

Although inspired by the crimes of convicted sex offender Toby Studebaker, Blackbird bears many similarities to Vladimir Nabakov's Lolita. Robin Larsen breathes renewed energy into the narrative with driven and calculating direction that makes watching the production akin to the familiar but unknown anticipatory experience of listening to a new orchestration of a famous composition. Larsen grasps and highlights the importance of Blackbird's major themes of achieved status, victim labeling, power struggles, and penance. Set design by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz is simple, but brilliantly allows for the injection of blurred human elements that serve as living metaphors.

Blackbird is playing through July 24, 2011. Tickets are $25 to $30 and available online or via phone at 855-585-5185.