What do women want? It’s a question old as time. In David Harrower’s “Blackbird” at the Chance in Anaheim Hills (through June 23), a young woman’s motives remain unclear even after she identifies a middle-aged man as a former partner in an illegal relationship and confronts him in his office. What does she hope to gain by forcing him to recall the whole experience in all its sordid details?

There are a lot of unexpected twists and turns and a number of surprises in this cat and mouse game—including a few comic moments—as Una and Ray relive the emotional highs and lows of their involvement and its aftermath. It’s a compelling tale told in real time in this long one-scene one-act, a multiple Tony nominee.

Ron Hastings (as Ray) anchors the play with his portrayal of a man who has paid for his crime and has much to lose and nothing to gain from a trip down memory lane. Dakota Wolf (Una) doesn’t seem quite angry enough about what her 12-year-old self had to endure but the emotional vulnerability of her character comes across strongly. Christa Havenhill directs with sensitivity and patience.

Another in a spate of short-run plays in Orange County, “Emilie,” a portrait of 18th century scientific genius Emilie du Châtelet—written by Lauren Gunderson and starring Kali Gray—continues at the Curtis Theatre in Brea through June 23. Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” featuring Nicholas Thurkettle as Prospero, performs June 29-30 only as part of the ShakesBeer Festival at Sea Terrace Park in Dana Point. Meanwhile, the Hollywood Fringe continues through June 30—in Hollywood, of all places.

New on Blu-ray: “Asphalt” (1929), a forgotten but visually stunning masterpiece of Weimar cinema, has been issued by Kino Lorber. Directed by Joe May—who launched Fritz Lang on his stellar career—this was among the last few German silents, made the year before “The Blue Angel.” The latter, in which a respectable man is brought down by a beautiful woman of questionable character, bears some resemblance to this recently restored film—wherein a pretty jewel thief ends up seducing the officer who apprehends her. 

The exotic culprit (Betty Amann) looks as though she may have been patterned after Louise Brooks, who made such a splash in German films of the era. The traffic cop who takes the fall is played by Gustav Frolich, the protagonist of “Metropolis.” The story is told primarily in the camera (with very few titles), manned by Gunther Rittau, who photographed “Blue Angel.” Anthony Slide contributes an audio commentary.

Author: Jordan Young