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Blackbird

Members say: Great acting, Intense, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Edgy
81
Critics
79
53 reviews
Members
81
588 reviews
 

Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams star in 'Blackbird,' the story of an uneasy reunion between a woman and a middle-aged man 15 years after they had a sexual relationship when she was 12.

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Una and Ray meet for the first time in 15 years. They are clearly not comfortable in other's company, and we soon find out why: When Una was 12, Ray seduced her. Now she has found him by accident, and they must delve into their complex feelings for each other. Winner of the 2007 Olivier Award for Best Play.

 

Cast & Creatives (8)



Reviews (641)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
79
Avg Score

70
The New York Times

"An immensely powerful work that only occasionally maximizes its potential in the fitful production...Williams’ Una starts off both hopping mad and, it would seem, certifiably mad...This interpretation also begins the production at a fever pitch that can only sweat itself out...Mr. Daniels, as good as he is, is forced to emote up to Ms. Williams’ level. When the production reaches its climax, it’s anticlimactic; Daniels and Williams have already been there, done that, and so have we." Full Review

95
New York Post

"What [Williams] pulls off in David Harrower’s 2005 drama is shattering...Their encounter takes unexpected turns and the language is disturbingly frank. By play’s end, 80 minutes later, both actors look drained. You’ll be shocked, yet strangely elated — the sign of powerful theater." Full Review

90
BroadwayWorld

"It seems inappropriate, and perhaps disrespectful, to praise the play and director Joe Mantello's production with the usually enthusiastic accolades a reviewer would bestow upon such an expertly achieved eighty minutes of theatre...In varying degrees, Williams and Daniels, both excellent, effectively confront the audience to feel sympathy for their characters as it becomes increasingly clear what their emotions are for each other." Full Review

75
Variety

"It was Mantello’s choice to go big with the emotions in this first scene, which heightens the drama but also pitches the passion so high that the actors can only take it up… and up… to the edge of hysteria...It’s still unnerving to watch. Too unnerving, actually, because by this time, both performances, fiercely committed and complicated as they are, have gone way over the top. But even at this high decibel level, the disturbing substance of the play makes it riveting." Full Review

90
Theatermania

"'Blackbird' is a difficult play to watch, one that provokes both tears and audible gasps as secrets are revealed and shocks dispatched. As much as Harrower lets us see the complexities of Ray and Una, it's Daniels and Williams who let us into the raw, emotional nakedness of their characters...By the time the play ends, Daniels and Williams look as though they've been run over by a bulldozer. As the audience files out, we realize we feel the same. This is one unforgettable night at the theater." Full Review

90
Time Out New York

"'Blackbird' is a comfortless 80-minute reckoning of arrested time and soiled innocence...Plot and morals are beside the point; the slow drip of memory like acid on the present is what Harrower is after...Joe Mantello reimagines his exactingly sharp 2007 staging...Time has been shattered for these walking ghosts, and we are transfixed watching them cut their hands, sifting through the shards." Full Review

70
New Yorker

"Watching Williams work is like seeing a figure from a documentary perform a fictional reënactment of her own life. She shifts between the two realities—what’s true in the world and what’s true onstage—without ever losing sight of her partner...The director, Mantello has a weakness for emphasizing the issues in 'issue plays'...Fortunately for us, Williams’s performance goes beyond his rather limited purview, but Daniels’s doesn’t." Full Review

95
The Guardian (UK)

"There are no weapons on display here – no knives, no guns, no stage blood – but this is the most lacerating play on Broadway this season. It leaves marks – on the audience, who may find some moments almost unbearably painful to watch, and on the actors too, who appeared drained and devastated at the curtain call. Despite the evocations of the title, in this 'Blackbird,' no one gets to be free." Full Review

95
The Huffington Post

"High-octane, provocative, brutally-lacerating drama is back on Broadway with David Harrower's 'Blackbird.' Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams give frenzied, uncompromising performances as a pair of irremediably-ruined souls frozen by a bubbling mix of guilt, retribution, revenge and what seem to be dangerous crosscurrents of desire... It is a dynamite play in a dynamite production with dynamite performances." Full Review

95
New York Magazine / Vulture

"So complicates the questions of consent and trauma and recovery—and even love—that it would be difficult to look at any of these subjects the same way again...It’s hard to think of another director besides Mantello who could so confidently package so much unprettied trauma within the big-box conventions of Broadway. He makes the experience of empathy both horrific and exhilarating...The theater at its best as in 'Blackbird' is one place where it is not only necessary but awesome to be awful." Full Review

30
New York Theater

"It’s a disturbing set-up, but my shock is reserved for the free pass that so many have been giving to a revival that feels like little more than a star-driven exercise in showy acting and goosed-up dramatic tension...The revival of 'Blackbird' feels neither articulate nor authentic...Daniels and Williams have a long track record of impressive performances, and Mantello is one of our premiere theater directors. It’s safe to say that “Blackbird” doesn’t represent their best work." Full Review

85
Lighting & Sound America

"Nine years on from its New York premiere, Harrower's script has lost none of its provocative power, its ability to leave deep and lasting wounds...Nearly a decade older, Daniels is even more at home inside Ray's dispirited, shriveled soul than before...Williams is a nervy technician who builds her performance on a series of effects that a lesser actress might not be able to pull off...'Blackbird' seems to me a modern expression of tragedy." Full Review

55
The Wall Street Journal

"A pruriently manipulative tale of pedophilia...It’s a have-it-both-ways shocker that seeks to make us sympathize (but not really!) with a man who molested a 12-year-old girl, did time for it, put his life back together, and now finds himself facing the prospect of having his cover blown when the girl shows up at his office 15 years after the fact, locked and loaded. Great acting, great staging, but 'Blackbird' still leaves a nasty taste in the mouth." Full Review

80
The Hollywood Reporter

"Harrower's writing has its studied aspects, from the clipped, nervously evasive dialogue of the early exchanges to the tidy juxtaposition of the monologues that strip both characters bare. But Mantello and his remarkable actors give this slow-burning, real-time drama fluidity and searing emotional heat. Chipping away at our preconceptions while forcing Ray and Una into inescapable corners of darkest self-knowledge, the play packs a visceral punch." Full Review

100
AM New York

"It is a lean and muscular piece of drama, where two emotionally damaged characters with a terrible past are brought together for an uncomfortable reunion that is sure to end in further disaster and trauma. Mantello once again shows how he can draw out fully-developed performances from great actors that are both believable and richly detailed. The interplay between Daniels and Williams could not be rawer or more dramatically charged." Full Review

10
Talkin' Broadway

"With the production of David Harrower's 'Blackbird,' both the victim and her victimizer would be doing everyone, and the cause, a favor by shutting up and flying away...This Joe Mantello mounting of the play remains one of the most painfully overwrought of anything I've ever seen...There's nothing inherently wrong with a premise this thin, but it can't stay thin, let alone be directed and acted that way...The entire thing comes across as a gigantic gag." Full Review

75
New York Daily News

"The play itself isn’t quite as successful. It takes time to settle into believable rhythms. Initial staccato bursts of words still sound stage-y. Dimming lights during monologues adds a non-realistic texture the play doesn’t need. The litter-strewn room echoing messy lives feels a bit too heavy-handed. Still, 'Blackbird' is taut, twisty and provocative. There’s value in works that make your mind fly to uncomfortable places and send out cries you can’t unhear." Full Review

95
Deadline

"Their rapture is murderous. They want to annihilate each other. This is the electrifying production that this season’s revival of Sam Shepard’s 'Fool For Love' aspired to be, also about a couple reuniting as they inch toward a death’s grip of horrifying power and sadness. Daniels and Williams are so devastatingly into David Harrower’s stem-winding tale of an illicit conjugation, that by the time the lights came up I felt as spent as the actors themselves appeared to be." Full Review

80
Chicago Tribune

"This drama—which I regard as one of the best pieces of writing of the last decade—offers the uncompromising actress Williams the rare opportunity to contort body and soul into a character...Not a moment feels inauthentic or not rooted in something deeply true...What's missing in [Daniels'] work is, in fact, the requisite superficial attractiveness of his guy...These two performances don't always fully jell as a single entity." Full Review

85
CurtainUp

"There's nothing been there/done that about this revival...Michelle Williams is a worthy partner for Daniels. Her Una is a more immediately aggressive, still wounded victim of her preteen sexualization than I recall Pill to have been. This has also made Daniels make Ray come across a harder, tougher and yet more nervous opponent in this cat-and-mouse game...Even if you knew what that twisty ending was all about, you'd still leave pondering the whys and wherefores of Una and Ray's relationship." Full Review

85
Front Mezz Junkies

"'Blackbird,' directed with intense force by Joe Mantello, grabs hold of us and does not give us a chance to get out of this without some squirming in our seats...We would like to see the simplicity here, so we can be more comfortable, but thankfully, Harrower has no intention for comfort...This is not a play to go into lightly, but I applaud the bravery of all involved. It is upsetting, disturbing, and doesn’t allow us to make easy judgments." Full Review

90
Newsday

"Harrowing drama...Whatever doubts I had about Jeff Daniels’ return to a character he played Off-Broadway, this riveting, visceral, uncompromising revival makes misgivings irrelevant. Again directed by the peerless Joe Mantello and now co-starring the extraordinary Michelle Williams, the drama feels more psychologically profound than what had earlier seemed an admirably austere but stagy 80-minute answer to the voyeuristic question raised by such wildly unseemly couplings." Full Review

70
TheaterScene.net

"Now 'Blackbird' has arrived at Broadway’s Belasco Theatre again directed by Mantello with Daniels but partnered by Michelle Williams in this two hander. Unaccountably, Mantello has chosen to stage the play differently this time. The new rhythms of the play undermine it somewhat. What was once a steadily rising action is now a series of fits and starts." Full Review

65
The Wrap

"Harrower carefully calibrates his 90-minute drama, which takes place in real time. About every 10 minutes, he shifts the ground under these two characters’ very unstable footing...Williams means to give a big, bravura performance that starts at a white-hot pitch and descends into near madness...Her performance as Una is mannered to the point of distraction. The result is an imbalance in performances that seriously undermines the drama between an unrepentant offender and his lost victim." Full Review

95
The Associated Press

"Harrowing — and absolutely brilliant — revival of 'Blackbird'...David Harrower's play is so intimate and emotional and charged that it makes 'Eclipsed' seem like a comedy. It's also impossible to stop watching because both characters are fully realized and equally sympathetic...While the play's topic might initially put some off, this cast makes the spare and human dialogue soar. These are two actors at the top of their game, holding back nothing." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
81
Avg Score

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Riveting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you've been waiting for a gritty, freight train of a drama, masterfully played by two actors at the top of their craft.

Don't see it if you're uncomfortable with adult themes, don't care for long monologues, or get restless without an intermission.

95
Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Profound, Riveting

See it if youre a jeff daniels and michelle williams fan, want a serious, thought provoking play that blurs the lines between right and morally wrong

Don't see it if You do not like serious content, dealing with difficult topics that are taboo to discuss openly in theater

86
Absorbing, Intense, Masterful, Indulgent, Entertaining

See it if enjoy intense plays with incredible acting.

Don't see it if you don't enjoy plays or are looking for a big production

74
Indulgent, Disappointing, Cliched, Overrated, Slow

See it if you want to Jeff Daniels throw away his life for Michelle Williams in a depressing one-set drama. Daniels is terrific; the show's a downer.

Don't see it if you like happy endings.

70
Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You like difficult material and brave performances.

Don't see it if You're thematically squeamish.

85
Absorbing, Edgy, Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you can keep your mind as to what, exactly, is right--and what is wrong. Are there absolute morals, and who is their arbitrator?

Don't see it if you are made squeamish by adult situations, or if you have difficulty divorcing yourself from preconceived notions of right and wrong.

80
Ambitious, Edgy, Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting

See it if you want to be wowed by some powerful performances and don't shy away from tough subject matter

Don't see it if you're uneasy with issues of abuse of minors

95
Intense, Thought-provoking, Profound, Great writing, Great singing

See it if You love a great story that'll really leave you torn by the characters and who to root for!

Don't see it if You're sensitive to subject matter- it revolves around pedophilia.

85
Dark, Great acting, Uncomfortable

See it if you want to see compelling acting, feel like a fly on the wall during an intense hour and a half confrontation between two characters

Don't see it if you don't want to see a play with very dark and disturbing subject matter, you want to lift your mood

75
Original, Absorbing, Ambitious, Edgy, Shocking

See it if you want to be challenged mentally and emotionally and want to be surprised.

Don't see it if dark topics such as mental illness and pedophelia are triggering or offensive. Also if you don't like shows with 2 people

92
Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Resonant, Riveting

See it if you love intense, great acting.

Don't see it if you can't handle art that makes you uncomfortable.

97
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Profound

See it if You want to see two great actors chew up the stage. Jeff Daniels was amazing in this powerful production about child sex abuse

Don't see it if You don't like plays with serious intense themes

76
Edgy, Great acting, Intense

See it if Daniels was amazing, Williams was not. if you like straight up acting you will love this show. The writing was not great.

Don't see it if when this affair happened he was 40 and she was 12. The writer should have made her a bit old. 12 is 12 but if she is 16 it may make a dif

68
Edgy, Intense, Excruciating

See it if Are looking to see a great performance by Jeff Daniels and an intense drama about affairs with minors

Don't see it if Don't like Michelle William's acting or a tough to swallow piece on innappropriate relationships.

80
Absorbing, Dizzying, Edgy, Great acting, Indulgent

See it if you're prepared for an emotionally-draining 90 minutes of two scene-thrashing (literally) actors fighting their way to truth and acceptance.

Don't see it if you are looking for a rollicking family night out, are uncomfortable with sexuality and rape, or dislike edgy modern staging.

50
Intense, Disappointing, Overwrought

See it if intense

Don't see it if sensitive subject matter

91
Intelligent, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if A well acted riveting drama

Don't see it if If you like only fluff, this show is not for you.

87
Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Riveting

See it if you want to see two extraordinary performances of emotionally scarred and broken people as the play intensely tackles a dark subject

Don't see it if you are easily disturbed by dark/sexual subject matter, you don't like intense, nonstop 90 minute plays, you don't like debatable endings

78
Absorbing, Ambitious, Intense, Relevant, Riveting

See it if you want to see great performances and really have something to think about.

Don't see it if you are triggered by stories containing assault/child abuse. This is a dark, intense show.

73
Great acting, Intense, Resonant, Slow

See it if you are interested in theater that discusses sexual abuse and trauma.

Don't see it if you find discussion of abuse to be too intense or triggering.

76
Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Great writing

See it if Great acting and drama is your cup of tea

Don't see it if Tough topics are difficult to enjoy

75
Absorbing, Edgy, Intense, Thought-provoking, Profound

See it if You appreciate very intense acting..the kind that leaves you in your seat for a few minutes after it's over

Don't see it if You don't want to see the dysfunction of humans

85
Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Relevant

See it if you are ready for an intense play about a very relevant topic in our culture. To keep with the mystery of the play, I won't disclose more.

Don't see it if you are easily affected by intense plays.

75
Excruciating

See it if You love Jeff Daniels or Michelle Williams. Tough subject, the acting was great but I could not get into it. And I really tried.

Don't see it if Child abuse...enough said.

83
Edgy, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Heavy,

See it if you like emotionally driven dramas or these actors. This piece had an interesting way of making the audience sympathetic to criminal acts.

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with stories that address sexual assault or emotional abuse.