BWW Review: BLACKBIRD at Sargent Theatre at the American Theatre for Actors is Timely and Important Storytelling

BWW Review: BLACKBIRD at Sargent Theatre at the American Theatre for Actors is Timely and Important Storytelling

Editor's Note: We welcome this guest review by Julie Anne Nolan. Nolan is a longtime writer, actor, and director with a Theatre Production degree from NYU. She has a Masters in Teaching and works frequently with students of all ages as a director and mentor. Julie Anne has a passion for reading, baking, knitting, crocheting, and live theater.

Sexual assault and molestation are certainly nothing new in our society; however, the conversations surrounding these situations are arguably having their pop culture moment right now, thanks to the #metoo movement.

Blackbird, currently being presented at the Sargent Theatre at the American Theatre of Actors on West 54th Street, finds itself in the middle of these conversations. In the play written by David Harrower, Una, a 27 year old woman, shows up at the workplace of an acquaintance, "Peter", with an axe to grind. Fifteen years earlier, they had a relationship which had ended abruptly. At the time, Peter (or as Una knows him, Ray) was 40.

Although initially produced in 2006, Blackbird feels very timely.

This production, directed by Alexander M. Oleksij, feels very connected to the ongoing conversations about sexual assault and what it means to be a survivor in our current cultural climate. This is not a production that the audience is meant to watch and be told how to feel; this is a production the audience is meant to engage in and form an opinion about based on their own experiences.

The trio of actors in the piece handle the heavy subject matter deftly. Gina Zenyuch plays Una not as a victim but as a woman-a survivor-determined to hold onto her strength as she searches for answers. Her Una doesn't want pity for what has happened to her. She wants clarity. Zenyuch draws the audience into Una's story, and quickly and masterfully connects the audience to her perspective, particularly through a devastating but beautifully delivered eight minute monologue.

Ray, played by Nick Pascarella, clearly has something to lose when Una shows up out of the blue. He approaches Ray as conflicted and remorseful, but also as a survivor, and his best moments come when he is wrestling with his past, or at least his past as he sees it. Throughout the piece, his skillful handling of Ray raises the question, "Can a person change? Can they be rehabilitated, even when society says they can't? Should we try to trust again, or are we only creating unnecessary danger?" These are questions the #metoo movement will be sorting through for years to come.

BWW Review: BLACKBIRD at Sargent Theatre at the American Theatre for Actors is Timely and Important Storytelling

Emma Osborne, the youngest member of the cast, plays a character known only as The Girl. Although not onstage for the majority of the play, she makes full use of the stage time she has and leaves a lasting impact.

Oleksij's direction keeps the play from becoming a stagnant, talkative piece. He keeps the actors moving enough to represent for the audience the constant power shifts in Una and Ray's relationship as they discuss the past and the present. These strong directorial choices enhance the storytelling.

This production of Blackbird feels like it has something very important to add to the conversations surrounding sexual abuse and victimization in our society. I suggest we listen.

Blackbird, now playing at the Sargent Theatre at the American Theatre for Actors, located at 314 W 54th Street, 4th floor, New York. Running now through June 24. Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8, Sunday at 3. Tickets available at

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Blackbird

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