BWW Reviews: THE BLUE ROOM from The Schoolyard
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by Jay Irwin
It's hard to tell from the outset if David Hare's play, "The Blue Room", adapted from Arthur Schnitzler's "La Ronde", dislikes women more or men as the men all seem to be pricks and women all seem to be playthings for the men. But after reflection overnight on this string of distasteful sexual encounters I think I settled on it. The play (and possibly Hare himself) dislikes the audience as he gives us nothing and no one to empathize with and no real journey to follow.
Basically the play is a daisy chain of rendezvous for us to indulge our voyeuristic tendencies over. The hooker with the cab driver, the cab driver with the au pair, the au pair with the student, the student with the married woman, the married woman with her politician husband, the politician with the underage model, the model with the playwright, the playwright with the actress, the actress with the aristocrat and the aristocrat with the hooker from the beginning. All of which is told with an eye on how messed up these liaisons are and with a through line of how long each encounter takes. And all these characters are played by two actors (Mariel Neto and Andrew Murray) as they weave in and out of this sexual game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon". And really that's it. There is no growth of the characters even from the only one who we see after some substantial time has passed. In fact none of them are particularly likable as they are either narcissistic users or willing victims. Consequently I found the play just kind of droned on with no one to care about and no end in sight and I found myself asking, "why?"
Plus, in order to make a two person show portraying multiple characters work you need two actors who can really give diverse performances otherwise the scenes muddle together. Unfortunately, we had one. Neto does an admirable job of really giving subtle differences in her performances beyond the costume changes and even manages some of her characters to show some age. But Murray, as charismatic and likable as he is, seemed stuck in one persona and that persona was definitely too young for some of his parts. And within those parts there weren't a lot of levels and so all of the men came across as … well … dicks. But that could also just be from the script. Putting on multiple characters requires more than a costume and dialect change especially if the characters are different ages. They need to inhabit the physical as well (stance, walk, intention) and that aspect was lacking.
Directors Todd van der Ark and Luke Sayler and the folks at the fledgling Schoolyard certainly picked a difficult show for their first new production (as their previous one was a remount of "Rocky Horror" from the now defunct Open Circle) especially considering the multiple locations needed. Next time maybe they should stick with something a little simpler. But that could just be me not caring for the play itself and it's lack of any kind of protagonist. I personally think you can be gritty and edgy and yes, even dark and still have someone to root for. But I'm funny that way.
"The Blue Room" from The Schoolyard performs at Odd Duck Studio through April 21st. For tickets or information visit Brown Paper Tickets at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/230072 or visit them at www.theschoolyard.net.
Photo credit: Simon Astor