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A CurtainUp Review
Blue Window

by Les Gutman
I feel like I'm on The Merv Griffin Show or something.
---Craig Lucas's Emily

Blue Window
Marin Hinkle and Neal Huff (Photo: Carl Sturmer)

Although some of Craig Lucas's other plays (like Prelude to a Kiss, Reckless and The Dying Gaul have enjoyed greater success, Blue Window remains a frequently produced and revived part of his body of work. It's breezily written and often divinely funny, and his characters seem real enough to touch; it's also among his most lyrical works. But a large part of its appeal is in the intriguing challenge it presents to directors.

It's a Sunday night in 1984. Libby (Marin Hinkle) is having a party, which transpires during the central of three scenes. It's one of those affairs where a hodge-podge of people, most of whom don't know each other all that well, are invited to come together and the host prays an interesting get-together will ensue. The dare it presents to directors, however, is contained in the other two scenes. In the opener, the cast of seven are found preparing for the party in five separate apartments, each in his or her own way. Libby is nervously fretting (about whether the party will be a flop, how she will graciously compliment her neighbor Alice (Hope Chernov) on her newly-published book, where the hell her "friend," Griever (Neal Huff), who promised to help her get ready, is. Griever's at home worrying about how he looks and what he'll wear, not to mention how much trouble he's in for being late. Alice is typing away while her family therapist lover, Boo (Marcia DeBonis), is studying Italian tapes in anticipation of their upcoming trip. The self-absorbed Tom (Josh Stamberg), an old high school friend of Libby's, is writing a song on his guitar, and paying little attention to Emily (Katy Hansz). Norbert (Jason Kolotouros), Libby's parachuting instructor, is at work on a picture puzzle on the coffee table. Onstage, all of this is happening at once. In the final scene, the frenzy is almost as serious: everyone has repaired to their own apartment save Norbert, who lingers behind with Libby.

The good news here is that Julia Gibson has matters well in hand, criss-crossing dialogue and all, with able support from a fine ensemble of actors. The trick, as one might imagine, is to avoid letting the parts overwhelm the whole, which in this case is Lucas's trenchant observation of the nature of love, commitment and relationship. Since not very much happens in Blue Window, and the conversation -- in some cases highly lubricated with alcohol -- is free-willing, we are left with little to "follow" except the characters.

In Libby, we have a walking bundle of neuroses, but Marin Hinkle treats her gently. Even the Lucille Ball-like crisis Lucas plants for her just before the guests arrive is not permitted to overwhelm (although Hinkle certainly succeeds in milking it for the requisite laughs -- and there are plenty.) Neal Huff has great fun with Griever -- he wins the award as Libby's most socially clumsy guest -- but ends up supplying the play with its most poignant image. The lesbian lovers take turns as each other's straight man, commandeering much of the party conversation. Ms. DeBonis's Boo is particularly memorable and active. Norbert, on the other hand, is reserved, but warms to the occasion. In Jason Kolortouros's hands, he is quite engaging. Finally, there are notes of odd discord from Tom and Emily, his manifested obtrusively, hers just the opposite. They are the least developed and thus least understood characters, perhaps by design.

There are a lot of doorways in Randall Parson's set, and a huge rendition of the blue window of the title at the back of the stage. Not surprisingly, this window represents a host of things: some literal, some symbolic and some metaphorical. Lucas weaves these threads elegantly.

These thirty-somethings are really something.
The Dying Gaul

Blue Window
by Craig Lucas
Directed by Julia Gibson
with Hope Chernov, Marcia DeBonis, Katy Hansz, Marin Hinkle, Neal Huff, Jason Kolotouros and Josh Stamberg
Set Design: Randall Parsons
Lighting Design: Josh Bradford
Costume Design: Kay Grunder
Sound Design: Kathy Queen and Rob Kaplowitz
Original Music: Rob Kaplowitz
Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes including no intermission
Opened at 28th Street Theatre, 120 West 28th Street (6/7 Avs.) July 10, 2001
Re-opening Manhattan Ensemble Theatre, 55 Mercer Street New York, NY 10013 (at Broome Street) 239-6200
Tuesday - Saturday @8PM, Saturday @3PM, Sunday @3PM & 7PM-- $45
Reviewed by Les Gutman based on 7/5/01 performance

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