Two images have arrived for next year’s Una, starring Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn and based David Harrower’s play Blackbird. We get a small hint of the intensity of the source material, an intimate two-hander where the adult Una finds the man who sexually abused her to confront him about the aftermath of their relationship.
Mara is flawlessly cast here, a natural fit to embody Una’s simmering rage and deep longing. With as much discomforting material that has to be met head-on, it requires a performer as game as Mara. Mendelsohn is called here to play a little more passive than we’ve seen from him, and he is a bit miscast. His skill with intensely focused one-on-ones (especially seen in Netflix’s “Bloodline”) will be an asset here, though.
The play is written in clipped, overlapping dialogue, with Una and Ray often unable to complete sentences before other details sidetrack them. It vibrantly immediate and intimate, giving the actor’s such a tool to create the tensions within themselves and between eachother. Harrower is adapting himself, and the play will be opened up to more than the two central characters (with Nightcrawler‘s Riz Ahmed showing up). If their is an element to hope is kept in transition, however, it is the real-time unfolding of events.
The incendiary elements of the play – do Una and her abuser Ray still harbor affection for one another – are going to have a tough battle with audiences and film Twitter, especially if not downplayed in the adaptation. Perhaps we’ll see how a broader audience handles the material, as Broadway will see an new production this spring, with Jeff Daniels (reprising his role from the original off-Broadway production) and Michelle Williams.