The Saline Selection: “Blackbird”

How’s this for a romantic scenario: A couple falls into a torrid, illicit affair. They decide to run off together. After making love, he goes out to buy cigarettes, changes his mind and leaves his paramour abandoned in the motel. Oh, did I mention he is 43 and she is 12! Some 15 years later, she traces him to his new life in another town and comes to his workplace after hours to … do what? Confront him? Attack him? Kill him? Shame him?  

That is the premise of Blackbird, a play that holds you mesmerized for 90 minutes as this battered couple renews, reviews, relives, regurgitates a pivotal moment in both of their lives. I saw this play when it first opened in London, and four years later, in this Theatre Exile production directed by Joe Canuso, it has lost none of its convulsive power.

Put away any of your preconceived notions of child predators and come prepared to see this odious situation in revealing new ways. Playwright David Harrower has brilliantly dissected one of humanity’s most reviled crimes into elemental pieces of love, regret and yearning. Beautifully acted by Juliana Zinkel and Pierce Bunting (on a break from an entirely different role in Broadway’s Mamma Mia), these two tortured characters bring every emotional nuance to their pitch-perfect performances, making it obvious that neither of them has fully recovered. She flirts, she taunts, she tortures, she suffers. He swings from guilt to denial to regret to loss. Together they move through a dance of violence and passion that leaves the audience ricocheting from horror to sympathy.

Do not let the subject matter deter you from a haunting night at the theatre.

Blackbird is at the Plays and Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Street until March 1. For tickets call 215-219-4022 or