THE BLUE ROOM. Written by David Hare; directed by Charles Wingerter. Produced by Lost and Found Productions (Performed at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo St., Denver) through May 22. Tickets available at 303-477-5977 or www.lostandfoundproductions.net.
THE BLUE ROOM is David Hare’s 1998 modernized take on REIGEN, a play written by Arthur Schnitzler one hundred years earlier in 1897. More familiarly known as the French LA RONDE, the play follows a circuitous tale of lust and romance. The first scene pairs The Girl (a prostitute) with The Cab Driver. The second scene allows The Cab Driver to move on to The Au Pair; the third connects The Au Pair with The Student . . . and on around the circle back to The Girl. All of the characters are played by the same two actors. In this way, various aspects of sex are explored, from boredom to anticipation to guilt to jaded indifference. Schnitzler himself after the original production was accused of being a pornographer; the current production does not stray too far from this description. Modern theatergoers are just a little more sophisticated and forgiving.
Pointed out in exquisite detail is the moral that without an element of love and lasting affection, this rondelay is just sex—a pleasurable act that can take anywhere from a minute up to hours. As part of the transition between scenes or during blackouts while the sex is going on, the length of the encounter is announced on a screen overhead. When one liaison finally reached 45 minutes, the women in the audience reacted with approval.
Many years ago, a now-defunct theater company did this show using more actors, which allowed for a smoother transition between scenes. Even with just the two players in this version, the costume changes were usually accomplished before the next scene could be set. Since we saw a great deal of female underwear, it was very impressive to see the the female actress changed from the skin out several times. However, the endless moving of furniture to set up the next scene created gaps in the circle. As well as I understand that small theater companies have to use what furniture they have on hand or can borrow, it seemed that more could have be done with permanent set pieces with the lights focusing our attention on the players in each scene. To make two actors and a bed inhabit the small platform over the tunnel (anyone who has been to the Bug knows the space to which I refer) is just plain dangerous.
Allyx Townsend lent variety and depth to most of her characters. She was especially demanding as The Married Woman in a liaison with the inexperienced Student. This wasn’t the first and wouldn’t be the last time she found a willing subject for revenge against her philandering husband, The Politician, with whom she shares the next scene. In the later scene, her anger and vulnerability to be hurt by his pompous, self-serving pronouncements cause her to keep her pain in check. It’s obvious that she is seething inside and dying to shout her anger and revenge at him. Her Young Model two scenes later was so insecure and childlike as to make the scene with the preening Politician almost child abuse.
Jesse James Montoya was not quite as successful in creating different personas for each of his 10 characters. His youth fit nicely into the naive Student, who became petulant and demanding with The Au Pair and then overwhelmed with excitement at his luck to hook up with The Married Woman. Later he created a realistic Playwright, self-absorbed and arrogant. But Mr. Montoya did not have the gravitas and maturity to make us believe in his Politician or Aristocrat. A different costume does not make a different character.
This is a play for a mature audience, as simulated sex is a regular occurrence, as is partial nudity. Costumes go off and on with astonishing regularity.
WOW factor: 7.5