Blue Window

By Craig Lucas
directed by Michael Allosso, lights and set by Harry Feiner
New Repertory Theatre, Newton MA, October 1995

Reviewed by G.L. Horton

In the first scene of Craig Lucas' deliciously sweet-and-sour Off-Broadway hit, "Blue Window", two thirtysomething couples and two single men, each somehow in their own New York apartments while sharing the New Rep's intimate stage, are dressing for a Sunday night dinner party. Simultaneously the hostess, Libby (Laura Duncan), mixes punch and rehearses the embarrassments in store for her when she tries --too hard-- to make conversation with her guests.

Libby is especially nervous about entertaining Alice, (Marianne Bergonzi) her lesbian novelist neighbor whose latest book has just been published. With a series of frantic phone calls to Griever, her supportive friend (M.L. Berry) -- Libby knows Griever from "the group" where they are in therapy together-- the hostess makes it clear that she sees her immanent dinner party as an ordeal, rather than a pleasure. It will be something to be endured, rather than enjoyed. Griever cheers Libby up with a series of clever quips and a self-help mantra: A host need only supply the food and the location. If the guests won't do their part and enjoy themselves, if they come "determined to have a bad time", relax and shrug it off. Not your fault, and "there's nothing you can do about it". At the last minute, just as the guests are about to arrive, Libby tries to open a jar of caviar with her teeth, and breaks the cap off her front tooth. Now she won't be able to contribute so much as a social smile to her own party without prompting questions for which she has no convivial answers.

The other guests, too, seem to have difficulty making human connections. Yet these are all attractive, successful people: Tom (Larry Bull) a composer Libby knew when they were both in high school; Tom's secretary girlfriend Emily (Kristin Wold); Norbert, (Derek Stearns) Libby's skydiving instructor who is "so sweet" with "such a stupid name"; and Alice's lover Boo (Judith McIntyre), a doctor in family therapy practice What is it then, lurking at the dark edges of urban life? What estranges these charming people from themselves and each other?

Lucas' play does not have a conventional "plot". Nothing happens. It does have a point, which the script itself expresses so thoroughly that a production like this one -- bright, sharp, and fast-paced in its determination to drive that point home--- can seem a little bit glib. The play is short, a long one act really, running only an hour and twenty minutes including an intermission. Perhaps director Michael Allosso could have given his cast a bit more breathing room. There are virtuoso turns here, especially in Lucas' famous monologues, beloved of acting students. Many of the "moments" are perfect. But there's not always a distinction between the character who is pushing too hard because she is nervous and vulnerable in a room full of semi-strangers, and the actor who is pushing too hard because he's been urged to pick up the pace and punch up the laughs.