In writing The Black Bird Returns, Barbara Panas and Alexis Kozak have written the perfect foundation for a resonant drama. Through their writing, Panas and Kozak have captured the subtleties of human romantic relationships, including the quarrels that leave lovers second-guessing romantic feelings and the tit-for-tats that leave lovers pondering the whereabouts of that “one pure love.”
In college, Kat and Cliff tested the waters of romance with adventurism. When the time came to commit to the relationship, however, Cliff skirted the decision and settled with another woman. Now, after considerable time has passed, Cliff longs to reawaken the relationship, though Kat and he are involved with other people. While Kat has emotional ties to Cliff, she is not certain that reawakening—reliving?—romance past is viable and smart. Is there one pure love to experience, or is love a decision? The Black Bird Returns asks. A concrete answer is not provided, but an attention-grabbing examination of two people and their taxing relationships—with current significant others and with each other—is dramatized.
Having breathed substance into original characters, Panas and Kozak have afforded their creations genuine voices and genuine eccentricities. Kat and Cliff, though fictional, communicate on an emotional, human, and tangible level, letting the viewer infiltrate their complex but absorbing world of Want, Need, and Desire with eagerness and ease. The Black Bird Returns has one shortcoming, however, and this is the hurried nature of the drama. Having written interesting characters and presented them with a shocking problem, it would have been constructive to see the struggles and doubts that Kat and Cliff face expanded further. In 75 minutes, Panas and Kozak touch the surface of the complex relationship that Kat and Cliff share(d). The Black Bird Returns, in its current state, does not probe what lies beneath that surface in a fulfilling manner.
In the role of Kat, Panas captures the expressive range of a woman whose emotions contradict and conflict. David Walters is excellent as Cliff. He infuses his performance with weakness and charisma that, without absolving him for past errors, humanize Cliff and earn him compassion from the viewer. A talented actor, Walters reveals the emotional depth of his character and heightens the desperate measures his character—as well as a real person—takes to regain affection from his one pure love.