Every city has their big, giant theater that’s screwed no matter what they do. In Chicago, it’s the Goodman; in Austin, it’s Zach Scott; here it’s ACT.
ACT gets dinged for only doing big, safe revivals. Unless they do a world premiere, when they get dinged for doing a big, sprawling, confusing world premiere. Now they’ve done a small, new-ish, controversial, adult play, and people I know are still complaining.
Yes, there are problems. The house is just too damn big, so staging is always tough. And this play, David Harrower’s BLACKBIRD, is really problematic in such a space. It’s meant to be two people in a little room, but the stage is enormous, so they’re often way across the stage from each other, shouting intimate conversation so the folks in the balcony can hear.
But let’s give some props for putting on this show in the first place. It’s a good play, in my humble opinion (despite the fact that it won an Olivier Award for best play, which is often a kiss of death among us hipster theater folks). It’s provocative, controversial, tense, intriguing. It has fractured language that’s both realistic and theatrically heightened. And it’s mysterious. No easy wrap-up or melodramatic endings. I’m really glad I saw it, and I really want to read it.
Given a choice between a sometimes-awkwardly staged BLACKBIRD and the three millionth version of UNCLE VANYA, I’d take this play any day. Just don’t sit beyond about Row K.