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Sonoma County Gazette
Sharia Pierce, John Shillington in Blackbird
Guilt overcomes Ray (John Shillington) who is faced with his victim, Una (Sharia Pierce).

Review: “Blackbird”
at Main Stage West

Mar 22, 2018
by Alexa Chipman


Billboards warning of child sex trafficking remind Sonoma County residents that the devastating abuse of minors is closer to home than we prefer to imagine. Main Stage West’s ‘Blackbird’ is a challenging play addressing the topic of pedophilia in a stark, disturbing conversation. A young woman has returned to face the man who took advantage of her as a young teenager, searching for closure. Their stilted meeting transforms into an honest, painful exchange that is chilling in accuracy and content.

Una (Sharia Pierce) explains who she is to an alarmed Ray (John Shillington) who has changed his name to avoid discovery.

David Harrower’s jagged writing peruses a landscape of regret and loneliness that is uncomfortable to witness, giving Ray’s despicable actions a three-dimensional quality that is difficult to process; experiencing compassion for his character feels wrong. Main Stage West’s production questions whether there is a lingering sense of humanity that can be acknowledged in Ray’s actions, or if he is an irredeemable villain who should be shunned and despised.

Nuanced direction from David Lear emphasizes Una’s sense of abandonment as a child, making full use of the dirty company breakroom, which he designed, filled with discarded lunch wrappers and overflowing trash bins, comparable to the personal disarray of Una and Ray.

“You made me into a ghost” Una accuses, describing her trauma and subsequent treatment from former friends and neighbors staring and gossiping.Sharia Piercecatapults through an array of reactions, piecing together the memories of a child with mature observations, desperate for a shred of hope to move forward with.John Shillington’s Ray is terrified of her sudden appearance, attempting to justify his actions and shift the blame back on her. Shillington describes being repulsed when he first read the script; he does not hold back in an insightful glimpse into the soul of a deeply troubled man.

Ray (John Shillington) attempts to blame Una (Sharia Pierce) for encouraging his affair.

‘Blackbird’ is not for everyone; it forces a close look at a cancerous tumor of society. The experience is not pleasant, but it is memorable, with compelling performances from Shillington and Pierce, who superbly embody their damaged characters.


Presented by Main Stage West through April 1, 2018
Thur/Fri/Sat at 8:00pm, Sun at 2:00pm

Main Stage West

104 North Main Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 823-0177

Deals with mature, graphic subject matter - not appropriate for all ages

Photos by Eric Chazankin

 Alexa Chipman Live Theater reviews

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