BLACKBIRD by Adam Rapp, directed by Kimberly Purtell, with Kate Meehan and Chris Reynolds. Presented by Crate Productions at 403 Yonge. Runs to April 9, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 7 pm. $20-$25, Sunday pwyc, stu/srs discounts. 416-831-0543, www.totix.ca. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In a derelict room above yonge and Gerrard, amidst empty cans and toilet paper, sit a man, a woman and a blackbird.
Thirty witnesses perch on bar stools and folding chairs in the shadows.
Blackbird explores the connection between Froggy ( Kate Meehan ) and Baylis ( Chris Reynolds ), two near strangers holed up in squalid digs above New York's Canal Street on Christmas Eve sometime in the past few years.
She's a heroin addict, he's a Desert Storm vet and former junkie. Baylis doesn't know Froggy's real name, but between long hauls on a never-ending supply of cigarettes and smack, they start to figure each other out.
Despite their immediate problems, Froggy and Baylis share a sweet connection. They struggle with her drug use, his injuries, their past experiences. But it's the games they play with each other and the tenderness of their love that matter, not the bits and pieces on the surface of their lives.
Enter the bird.
The blackbird on their window sill comes from Wallace Stevens's poem Thirteen Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird, in which the bird haunts love affairs as a dark portent of things unsaid. When it taps on the pane, Froggy welcomes it and examines its beady eye. Baylis rages against the intrusion and slams his fist into the glass, causing fissures in more than just the window.
Reynolds and Meehan commit to Adam Rapp 's script and the setting with inspiring voraciousness. Their every thought plays with a delicate subtlety that contrasts with the harshness of their words and the squalor of the playing space.
Little things like stilted line deliveries and choppy mood transitions initially stick out, but it doesn't take long for the actors to fall into a solid rhythm.
In a show this bare, you can't help but notice the tiniest bump.