In interviews, Scottish playwright David Harrower has claimed he chose the title of his play Blackbird almost at random from the old standard "Bye Bye Blackbird" ("Pack up all my cares and woes ...").

In interviews, Scottish playwright David Harrower has claimed he chose the title of his play Blackbird almost at random from the old standard "Bye Bye Blackbird" ("Pack up all my cares and woes ...").

It could've been from the Beatles' White Album ("Blackbird singing in the dead of night ..."), or from a story about the sixth-century founder of monasticism, Saint Benedict of Nursia. But Harrower claims to have been unfamiliar with this likeliest of sources until after he chose the title.

One day when Benedict was alone, a small blackbird began flying around his head. Benedict was suddenly overwhelmed with desire for a woman he'd once seen. Coming back to his senses, Benedict threw off his clothes and plunged naked into a thorn bush to transform his lust into self-punishment.

Given the aptness of that legend, one wonders if Harrower is telling the truth about not having known the Benedict story. Similarly, one wonders how much truth the two characters of Blackbird are telling each other about the illicit affair they had 15 years ago, when Ray was 40 and Una was 12.

Yes, Blackbird is about pedophilia. Or, more precisely, about its effects on the lives of the pair involved, the possibly unreliable memories they have formed, and the selves they have constructed in the aftermath.

CATCO and director Geoffrey Nelson deserve great credit for presenting so potentially unsavory a play. But at the center of this production, Anna Paniccia only occasionally captures the intended rhythms of Harrower's fitful, fractured, hesitant dialogue.

Although it has often been compared to the dialogue of David Mamet, Harrower's style concentrates much less on cross talk and interruptions and much more on the staccatos reflecting the internal uncertainties of thought. What T.S. Eliot called "decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse."

As Ray, Jonathan Putnam nails those rhythms, tensing and shaking when he feels under attack, easing off when he's telling his idealized side of the story. Wearing a grizzled beard and bedraggled work outfit, he could be the man he was 15 years before, or he could be the guy still struggling to overcome that past.

Harrower has written Una and Ray as two people thrusting and parrying with individual as well as shared memories. Although the playwright asks us to reconsider whether such a relationship could be legitimate and non-exploitive, the shortcomings of CATCO's production undercut him.

By the time Harrower makes his final, twisting thrust, it won't be merely the title that leaves you wondering. You might call Blackbird the theater of uncertainty.