BLUE MAN GROUP
by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink
Briar Street Theatre
Halsted & Briar / (773) 348-4000
Reviewed by J.T. Bowen
Originally published in CENTERSTAGE.NET
Blue Man Group is one of those events that is hard to describe. I use the word “event” because it is not quite theatre, not quite performance art. What it is, however, is sensational. If you think the Internet is interactive, try this!
Blue Man Group, created by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink, began as a series of “happenings” in New York in 1987. The show as a whole first appeared at La MaMa in 1991, and later that year appeared at Lincoln Center’s SERIOUS FUN! Festival. It’s original Off-Broadway run won both the Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk Awards, and has appeared on television in shows ranging from The Tonight Show to Entertainment Tonight. Through all of this, it remains a consistent crowd pleaser. A second company of Blue Man Group has been playing to sold-out houses in Boston for over two years. Expect it to do as well here.
If you have ever been in the Briar Street Theatre, you will not recognize it. The lobby has been turned into a mass of tubes, silly inventions and artwork. You can actually use some of the tubes to “chat” to the person on the other end. That other person could be next to you or on the other side of the lobby. When you enter the theatre, a red ticker greets you with useful information (like the fact that there is no intermission), and right before the show begins, greets you with information about birthdays in the audience, etc., all in the spirit of getting the audience into a cooperative mode. This not only works, it gets the audience screaming as the very loud music starts and the Blue Men take the stage. A “Blue Man” (called such because of their entirely blue heads and hands) is “the curious being from inner space who wants to ‘blesh’ with the audience through sound and color.”
The five actors that alternately play the three Blue Men are Michael Cates, John Grady, Tahmus Rounds, Brian Scott and Kristian Thorson. The three actors are accompanied by an excellent rock band located high above the stage. The show is part sideshow, part percussion extravaganza, part video, part modern art exhibit. But all of it is interactive, and all of it is extremely entertaining. It’s hard to fully describe a show whose props include Jell-O, marshmallows, twinkies, lots of paint, tons of paper, fiberglass pipes, tubes, tubes and more tubes. In one particularly amazing segment, Blue Man One discovers marshmallows and paint balls. He then proceeds to throw them into the mouths of Blue Man Two and Three (the night I was there, Blue Two caught 30 marshmallows without letting one fall to the floor, keeping all of them in his mouth at once). This turns into a kind of bizarre competitive art show. With Blue Man Two making a marshmallow sculpture and Blue Man Three making spin art. For all you techies out there with a sense of humor, there is also a very funny parody of the Internet. It’s not all silliness, however. There is a segment late in the show that is a quite an effective and depressing indictment of the media and technology.
Blue Man Group is the kind of show that theatergoers and non-theatergoers alike will love. The audiences walking out of this show are completely energized. The festive atmosphere of the show and the unbelievable talent of the performers make this something you will probably want to see again. I know I do.