Mike Mulligan is the oldest working actor in Key West and, at 70, doesn’t just choose any role. When he read the script for “Blackbird,” by David Harrower, the veteran actor knew the play was special. The play presents a variety of challenges and ultimate theater for actor and audiences alike. The setting is a conversation between two star-crossed lovers trying to find understanding and compassion amid a host of societal taboos. It is an emotional showcase delving into most precarious subject matter, the love between an older man and a younger woman.
Mulligan and actress Jessica Miano Kruel bring to life the most difficult of love stories. What would happen if audiences revisited a Lolita-type romance 15 years later? The main character Ray (Mulligan) has served a prison term and is living under a pseudonym, Peter, but his child lover Una (Kruel) finds him once again and forces a confrontation of their past. The result is a painful revisiting of their tragic bonds of love, passion, anger, guilt and shame brought forth with uncompromising truth.
The two actors face off in a fast-paced, well-written dialogue discussing the three-month romance between 40-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl, but as they are now, at 55 and 27. It is a deep philosophical look at the boundaries of love by both culprits and victims.
“Blackbird is an agent of change – it makes people see things in another way, discuss things that may be uncomfortable, but it is what is uncomfortable that creates change,” said Mulligan, who is co-producer with director Dennis Zacek, artistic director emeritus of Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater and a veteran of Fringe Theater Key West.
“Loosely based on a true story, ‘Blackbird’ offers roles that challenge and inspire an actor,” Zacek said. “Harrower highlights the frailty and desire of two damaged human beings while revealing their souls.”
Blackbird was recipient of three 2016 Tony nominations, including lead actor and actress in New York. The film version debuted in at the Telluride Film Festival in 2016 starring Rooney Mara as Una and Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline’s” Danny Rayburn) as Ray.
Having worked in the theater business in Key West since 1973, Mulligan applauds the quality work such a small community has to offer.
“The biggest change in the Key West theater over the years is it has become so much more polished,” said Mulligan, “Audiences expect a lot and all the theaters are really stepping up to the plate. Eventually, Key West can become a destination for theater.”
The Studios Of Key West, 533 Eaton Street
Friday-Sunday, March 3 – 5
“The challenge of the play is to present the ‘other side’ because the play is not one dimensional.” — Mike Mulligan, of ‘Blackbird’