Photo by Don Kellogg

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Blue Flower

Architects and designers will tell you this all the time - not everything that looks good on paper translates well when actually constructed.    2ST has tried to breathe new and massive quantities of life into a wilting bud that was first presented in 2004 at the New York Musical Theater Festival (NYMF) and then again in Boston at the American Repertory Theatre in 2010.   Unfortunately, it may have worked in one of the intimate black-box theaters of NYMF, but the idea, when in full bloom at a larger off-Broadway stage wilts under the hot light of day.

Effectively a story about a story, about a story - (yes, that's a lot of stories) - the show is told to the audience  by a narrator while the actors mostly silently act and sing in a somewhat chaotic manner.  When the actors do speak (it's rare) it's often, as in the case of Max, is in his made up gibberish language - which I never did quite connect the dots as to why he started speaking it in the first place.   As a matter of fact, there are a lot of points in the show that, while intriguing, never quite connected to the next point.  And I haven't even gotten to the songs yet!  The songs, you ask?  I found myself asking song after song - what on earth does this song have to do with what I'm watching?   Finally, I still, after asking no less than 4 reasonably intelligent-looking, theatre-going people sitting near me in the theatre, cannot understand what the significance of the blue flower even is. It's the title of the show for Pete's sake and they used blue flower petals about 6 times in the show too!  You'd think the gun, used in both act 1 and act 2 would somehow be made relevant!   Confounding, to say the least.  Distracting, confusing, and illogical mostly.

Notice that my critique centers on the construction, substance, and mood of the work itself.  That's because despite the awkwardness - the actors and musicians (on stage!) were some of the best that Broadway and off-Broadway has to offer - and they didn't fail to deliver a top notch performance despite the material's crippling handicap.  Taking the helm is the incomparable Marc Kudisch as Max.  He's engaging, crisp and powerful with a voice that can't be matched.  Sebastian Arcelus, as Franz, likewise, is a kind, handsome (um, very), and emotionally torn friend to Max.  His tender voice filled the theatre with deep emotion.  Meghan McGeary (Hannah) and Teal Wicks (Maria) both turned in powerhouse performances.  I frankly didn't like either of their characters, nor most of the material they were given to perform - but looking past that fact, I cant deny their immense talents.

So while the sets may be imaginative (Beowulf Boritt) and the sketches and storyboards may have looked good, The Blue Flower doesn't translate well from page to stage.  Director Will Pomerantz gave it a gallant try but this miss is neither his nor the actors' faults.  Some books should just be left on the coffee table to admire.