Gamm Stages Controversial ’Blackbird’ Through June 1

by Joe Siegel
Friday May 16, 2014

The Gamm Theatre is presenting the Rhode Island premiere of "Blackbird," Scottish playwright David Harrower’s most acclaimed and controversial play.

The production runs until June 1.

"Blackbird" is a one-act play which is set in a dingy factory break room. Fifty-five year-old Ray (Jim O’Brien) and 27-year-old Una (Madeline Lambert) engage in a heated confrontation.

Ally Gower makes a brief appearance as Ray’s stepdaughter.

Fifteen years earlier, the two had a sexual affair... when she was 12. Ray has assumed a new identity and a new life following his imprisonment, while Una has not stopped searching for answers to her conflicting emotions.

"Blackbird" premiered in 2005 and was partially inspired by the crimes of sex offender Toby Studebaker.

Director Tony Estrella saw the original London production and was highly impressed.

"It blew me away," Estrella told EDGE. "The story is a very complex and unsettling one and forces us to look at the vagaries and complexities of human desire. Also, how far our compassion can go versus our need for vengeance and punishment."

Estrella is Gamm’s artistic director and recently appeared in the theatre’s highly acclaimed version of "Macbeth," where he played the title role.

Directing "Blackbird" has been "an incredible challenge", Estrella explained.

"When you come up against material that is this dense but thrilling and finding a way to kind of make that as powerful and clear to an audience with actors of this caliber, there’s no place I’d rather be."

So far, audiences have reacted favorably to the show, according to Estrella.

"They’re not turning away from the difficulty of the material and the complexity of this particular relationship," Estrella said. "They’re leaning forward in their seats and I think mainly because they have two actors up there who are really giving it everything they have."

"Blackbird" continues through June 1, 2014 at The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre | 172 Exchange St., Pawtucket, RI. Tickets $38, $48 depending on day/time. Previews (May 1-4) $28. Discounts for seniors, students and groups of 10 or more. 401-723-4266 or gammtheatre.org

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


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