Burning Coal Theatre Company’s world-premiere production of Blue, an R-rated romantic fantasy by Raleigh playwright Kelly Doyle, has the plot and some of the heavy-breathing, talk-dirty-to-me dialogue of a really bad porno movie. Unfortunately, like the remote control-clutching Peter Sellers character in Being There, the audience is powerless to fast-forward through the boring bits in this sleazy smorgasbord — which is liberally laced with a flash of female nudity, far too much male masturbation, and a couple of interludes of simulated sex — but there are no really juicy bits, so the Play button remains unpressed.
By contrast, the May 2009 staged reading of Blue, smartly staged by director Emily Tilson Ranii with a crackerjack cast headed by the wonderfully warm and expressive Jen Suchanec, showed considerable promise. But the latest-and-greatest version of Blue is just talk, talk, talk — and tedium trumps titillation as this 90-minute, three-character one-act play runs its lurid but remarkably dull course.
By trimming her dramatis personae to three, dramatist Kelly Doyle zeroes in on the travails of a sexually unfulfilled woman named Louise (Clemson University drama teacher Kerrie Seymour), her sympathetic but ultimately inadequate long-time lover Adagio (Raleigh actor John Jimerson), and the icky carnival headliner William the Blue Worm (Durham actor John Allore), who inexplicably becomes the object of Louise’s affections. Onstage, William is a flashy escape artist, with a Houdini-like repertoire of tricks. Offstage, he is a foul-mouthed male prostitute who degrades and debases all the women (and some men) that he services.
God only knows what Louise sees in William, who is so obviously Mr. Wrong written in capital letters 100 feet high. During their whirlwind trysts in his condom-littered train-car compartment, William is vitriolic. He berates her in the vilest terms. Indeed, he seems more interested in manipulating his own joystick than in locating Louise’s erogenous zones. Meanwhile, the cuckolded Adagio dutifully remains at home and is surprisingly uncurious about Louise’s assignations with William.
Kerrie Seymour never makes Louise remotely interesting, let alone sympathetic. John Jimerson does his best to breathe life into the underwritten Adagio, but Adagio is there only so that Louise can have someone sweet and simple and trusting to betray.
Blue’s director, Davidson College theater professor Mark Sutch, allows John Allore carte blanche to make William the Blue Worm a really nasty piece of work who makes no effort at all to conceal his contempt for Louise from her; but in the process whatever made Louise fall in lust with William, whatever made him Mr. Right Now for a series of low-rent rendezvous, is lost — and with it the last shred of the play’s credibility.
SECOND OPINION: Jan. 19th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/01/19/928739/blue-a-boldly-absurdist-treat.html; and Jan. 6th Chapel Hill, NC WUNC 91.5 FM interview by Frank Stasio with Kelly Doyle and Mark Sutch: http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/sot010611c.MP3/mediafile_view. (Note 1: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Jan. 13th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/01/blue-is-a-whimsical-dramedy-by-kelly-doyle/. Note 2: To read Robert W. McDowell’s May 21, 2009 Classical Voice of North Carolina review of Burning Coal’s 2009 staged reading of Blue, click http://cvnc.org/reviews/2009/052009/Blue.html.)
Burning Coal Theatre Company presents BLUE, a world premiere of a new play by Kelly Doyle, at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 21 and 22 and 27-29 and 2 p.m. Jan. 23 and 30 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.
TICKETS: $20 ($15 students, seniors 65+, active-duty military personnel, and groups of 10 or more), except $5 Student Rush Tickets and $10 Thursdays.
BOX OFFICE: 919/834-4001 or http://www.etix.com/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zZC9dkIJbw.
NOTE: At 6 p.m. on Jan. 22nd, Raleigh dramatist Kelly Doyle will give a “lobby lecture” — FREE for buyers of tickets to any performance of Blue and $5 for everyone else — about being a playwright in the Raleigh/Durham area and about all aspects of writing and developing this world-premiere production.
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.