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The Blues Are Running

This two-actor, six-character play has the rhythm and look of the avant-garde. And, since Michael Christopher is the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Shadow Box you might well expect something comparable to Beckett or Mamet or Pinter. What you actually get is a play with the feel and tempo of the avant-garde but none of its underlying subtleties and mysteries. Even the fishing metaphor which gives the play its title sounds a lot more meaningful than it is.

That much said, The Blues Are Running is good fun. The way Christopher ties his three tales together is clever and amusing, as is the way he makes the talkative Mickey of the first duet the less talk-happy JoJo of the second . Though there are no thunder and lightning surprises, there are many amusing twists and turns. In the course of discussing life, death and the complexities of friendship, the three pairs of players--one pair invisible, and two pairs seated on a bench in Central Park after midnight--deliver lots of funny lines. The actors, brothers Paul and Marcus Giamatti, play all the parts with panache and hair-trigger timing. The backdrop scrim with its trees and early-morning moon, imbues the set's one piece of furniture, the park bench, with just enough of the sense of the dangers that lurk in any big city park at that hour. And sure enough, we are immediately jolted out of our seats by the sound of an exploding gun which marks the beginning of this three-legged dramatic stool. After that, in keeping with the previously-mentioned avante-garde aura surrounding the evening's proceedings, the stories are more of a verbal than than physical shootout.

Of the six characters, Pyle and Stile, the unseen homeless men who always looked out for each other were the most moving and endearing. Mickey and Boo, were the most successfully realized and their segment the best paced. When Mickey's got his "whole life in a blender" because his wife has accused him of being gay, he naturally calls up his oldest friend Boo--only to discover how little he really knows him. I'm not giving anything away when I say that the friendship is changed but not shattered by the truth. Nor do they go fishing even though "the blues are running." The two identically dressed New Jersey hit men we meet in act two are, like Mickey and Boo, very unidentical personalities. The nuts-and-bolts member of the team accuses his partner of talking "movie talk" trying to make "everything, (even killing), interesting even if it's not." When he can't bring himself to do what he's supposed to do, he angrily tells Johnny "You're a head-on collision with a semantic garbage truck."

Melvin Bernhardt directs the off-and-on-stage proceedings to provide as much movement as you can bring to a small stage with a single prop. He would have done well to consider at least a ten minute cut.

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