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Blue

a Memory Play
CATEGORY :
by Charles Randolph-Wright (Music by Nona Hendryx)

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 1368

SHOWING : July 08, 2005 - August 07, 2005

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

In this "Memory Play with Music," Reuben Clark remembers growing up with his strong-willed Mother in a South Carolina Mortuary.


CAST & CREW LIST
Cast John Jenkins
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REVIEWS

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Surviving Dysfunction
by Dedalus
Friday, August 19, 2005
4.0
“Am I Blue?” croons the old standard. Charles Randolph-Wright’s new play with music, “Blue,” takes that sentiment quite literally. Blue Williams is a popular “lounge” singer from the an older generation – imagine Johnny Mathis on Valium – who is the obsession-made-flesh of Peggy Clark, the wife of a well-to-do South Carolina mortician. Peggy is also the strong-willed mother of Reuben, who tells us his story about surviving Family Dysfunction.

When I first read about “Blue,” I was skeptical. Family Dynamics can be a minefield for dramatists, directors, and actors, and there are so many ways this project could have gone very wrong. But, because of some original devices, some clever use of clichés, and some artful sidestepping, “Blue” was a pleasure to watch, a notable addition to Horizon’s exceptional season.

The first pitfall the playwright avoided was the “Blame Game.” It’s very easy (and very trite) to point fingers at family villains. In the cliché, surviving dysfunction means escaping or “getting back” at whoever is at fault. In this case, Reuben does run away. But he comes back to face the realization that “blaming Mother” is a way of avoiding responsibility; he accepts that she is who she is, and that any emotional baggage he carries is his own to nurture or to drop. How refreshingly non-judgmental!

The second pitfall avoided was rampant “sit-com-itis.” Act One, set in the 1970’s, starts off with the standard sitcom set-ups and clichés in place. Reuben’s randy older brother (Sam III) brings home LaTonya, a “girlfriend” guaranteed to make any mother weep in abject horror. After quickly wringing all the expected humor out of this set-up, though, the play takes an abrupt turn – it seems that LaTonya loves Blue’s music as much as Peggy. An unlikely friendship is born, and the situation is able to mine a deeper, more satisfying vein of humor.

Finally, the play features an original device – in the Act One 1970’s scenes, older Reuben observes and comments on the actions. In the Act Two 1990’s scenes, the roles are reversed, and younger Reuben becomes the observer and advisor. This device works better than expected, giving equal weight to innocence and experience in bringing Reuben to his final acceptance.

I would be too generous if I avoided pointing out a few short-fallings – a final plot “twist” that is fully expected and unnecessary, music of “Blue” that is unremarkable and bland, and 70’s that wigs are about as fake-looking as a politician’s smile. That being said, the pluses of this show far outweigh the minuses. I liked how the plot twist was revealed, how the “real” Blue contrasted (and deepened) the “fantasy” Blue, and how the cast made all these characters come to life. I like how the Family Dynamics hit universal chords that anyone can recognize. In the final analysis, Reuben’s complaints notwithstanding, when a deep love is in a household, all the bickering and emotional baggage and strong-wills-in-conflict does not add up to Family Dysfunction … it adds up to life.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



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