Regional Reviews: San Francisco
David Hare's The Blue Room at San Jose's
Also see Richard's review of Oo-Bla-Dee
I am a strong David Hare fan and have seen almost everything this playwright has written, including his three political plays on the three powers of English government. However, The Blue Room leaves something to be desired. The scenes change so rapidly that it is difficult to have feeling for any of the characters. It is just a paper thin show with no substance. Fortunately, the production has two of the best Bay Area actors performing in this two character play. Jonathan Rhys Williams and Stephanie Gularte, along with the dependable work of director Michael Butler, make the production worthwhile.
The Blue Room was freely adapted from Arthur Schnitzler's circa 1900 Viennese play, Reigen, which caused quite a stir in theater circles at the time. Even when the play was translated to La Ronde and was about to play the London stage, Lord Chamberlain forbid its presence on stage. The French made a charming film based on the play in 1950 that still circulates through the art houses. In 1994, the play was translated into the musical Hello Again, which received rave reviews. Playwright Hare's representation first appeared in 1998 at London's famed Donmar Warehouse with Nichole Kidman and Iain Glenn in the leads. Once again it caused quite a stir when Ms. Kidman appeared briefly on stage in the nude. In this production, there is no nude scene.
The Blue Room has been updated to modern day London and consists of 10 sketches or diminutive acts portraying a chain of sexual encounters whose links are formed from the various classes of the London public. You are not privy to the actual sex but only to the lust leading up to each "event." The opening scene starts with a young prostitute who looks like Twiggy bedding a cockney cab driver who in turns engages in an erotic affair with an au pair. We then see the au pair in the passionate embrace of a student who next seduces a nervous married woman. It continues with a politician, a model, a Scottish playwright, a grande dame stage actress, an aristocrat and finally back to the young call girl. All scenes are very brief and are entitled, "Girl and the Cab Driver", "The Cab Driver and the Au Pair," etc. After each scene there is a brief blackout and a caption projected on to the top of the stage dryly informing us how long each sex act has taken.
Jonathan Rhys Williams plays all of the male roles, ranging from the cab driver to the awkward student to the aristocrat, all with amazing technical skill and speed. His accent is impeccable and his acting is superb. Stephanie Gularte, a Sacramento actress, is equally as amazing in her roles which range from the waif like and scrawny Twiggy-lookalike prostitute all dressed in blue, to a sophisticated married woman, a model, and a hilariously grande dame actress of the British stage. Gularte has incredible chemistry and comic timing; however, her roles are not as showy as the male roles in the drama.
Director Michael Butler has the actors disappearing behind a backlit screen between each scene and we see silhouettes of them hustling in and out of their various apparel and moving to the various melodies that are played over the sound system between these scenes. It is very clever. The small stage has no set and the props are rounded chrome pieces that are made to suggest a bedroom, a kitchen or the back room of a bar. Most of the costuming is blue throughout the play with the exception of the last scene in which the tart has changed into a tight red dress.
The Blue Room runs through March 31 at The Theatre on San Pedro Square, 29 N. San Pedro Street, San Jose. Tickets are $24.50 to $42.50. Call (408)283-022 or visit www.tosps.com. Their next production will be Forever Plaid, followed by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Song and Dance.