The Blue Room: Bad Cyan's Fiction

Local Arts Reviews

The Blue Room: Bad Cyan's Fiction

Blue Theatre,

through August 26

If you're making $5 an hour, you don't need to imagine someone making $50-plus an hour to realize that what you're pulling in is, pretty much, chicken feed. Likewise, one needn't have seen the caustic brilliance of Closer, that starkly erotocentric drama recently directed by Ann Ciccolella at Zach Scott, to feel disappointed by the current really sexually focused offering in town: The Blue Room. One could merely drive to the coincidentally named Blue Theatre -- that terrific new space run by Ron Berry & Company -- and see the show, and note that the actors do, okay, a decent-enough job, and that the lighting and music design are sufficiently workmanlike, that director David Hickey has a good handle on things, and then wonder what all the fuss was about when this David Hare creation played in the Big Apple.

All the fuss in New York was about Nicole Kidman's performance, of course, and particularly that she was, albeit briefly, naked. Yeah, well. Kidman is gorgeous in more than just the facial area, to be sure. But she could've been Aphrodite herself, and the best actress in the world, and her co-star Iain Glen could've been the best (and most nakedly appealing) actor, and it wouldn't have made much difference beyond simple titillation. I'd thought the name David Hare -- being bylined to earlier plays such as Plenty and Map of the World and The Judas Kiss -- equaled deep, invigorating theatre. But this time out, the emperor appears to be wearing even fewer clothes than his characters are.

The story, lifted from Arthur Schnitzler's play La Ronde, is a kind of Jacob's Ladder tag-team match, 10 acts progressing between a succession of characters, with one character, alternately, linking each act. Like the acts go: Girl and Cab Driver, Cab Driver and Au Pair, Au Pair and Student, and so on. This is a neat device, all right, and even provides for some parallaxic views of the different couplings; but it never moves much beyond being a neat device.

Jeff Griffin and Kathryn Lott, playing the various roles, do a pretty good job. It's tough enough work to differentiate this many characters in the first place; and since the writing keeps them so near the surface, they're kept from using depth to reach distinction. But the actors do their best, it looks like, and they pull off almost as much believable emoting as they do clothing, and good use is made of the stage and its minimal set, and so on ... but for what? For what seems like a freshman's response to the assignment, Write a Play Featuring Sex and a Neat Structural Device. Which, if it were a plane, would fly about as well as recent memory's Concorde. Paying-good-money-in-the-hopes-of-seeing-good-theatre-wise, anyway.

And then the comparative framework swings down, and one considers The Blue Room in the light cast by Closer, and one shakes one's head and wonders "Why bother?" At least I shook my head and wondered that, especially after The Distraction.

The Distraction occurred when one of the slides -- which are projected into the darkened set and mark the amount of time each pair of characters spends in coital frenzy -- got stuck in the projection carousel or whatever and only half its image appeared above the set's bed during the rantum scantum of a middle act. And so I glanced way up to the projection booth, and one of the light techs up there was wearing a baseball cap; but the way the shadows were hitting that person's face and the big old beak-like brim of the cap made it look as if a giant chicken was up in the booth with the other tech. And I watched this optical illusion for a while, fascinated by the shifting chickenish shadows, eschewing the action onstage for at least two minutes. And what I mean by relating this is to heighten the comparative framework's intensity, because if an actual giant chicken had walked over and sat down next to me and started pecking blood out the side of my head while I was watching Closer, I might not have noticed at all. Which means that that's the kind of show you scrimp to afford attendance to if you're only making $5 an hour. But even if you're pulling $50-plus, The Blue Room isn't where you want to spend any of it.

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