Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Blue Flower

Catherine and I went to see the Prospect Theater's production of The Blue Flower by Jim Bauer and Ruth Bauer this past weekend. As I said in my previous post on the piece, I've known Jim and Ruth for several years, since we were resident artists at HERE Arts Center and I've seen many incarnations of the piece over the years: staged readings, concerts, workshops. And I still listen to The Weimarband's album Sturm n' Twang regularly—I defy anyone to go to visit the Eiffel Tower after they hear Jim's song and not have Jen Chapin's voice echoing in their head!

The production is great: if you're a musical theatre lover in New York, you owe it to yourself to see this piece. It is by far one of the best plays I've seen recently—on Broadway, Off or Off-Off.  The actors do a first rate job: I knew Meghan McGeary would be fantastic as Hannah because she'd nailed the role the first time I saw her perform it; but for the others, stepping into the shoes (or, more precisely, voices) of Jim and Jen was a big challenge. Happily, they're all up to the challenge and I was not at all disappointed. Will Pomerantz has done a great job bringing the entire production together—it's visually arresting, tightly paced, and kept me fully engaged throughout. I especially like how well they've incorporated Ruth's artwork—both as an installation before you enter the theatre as well as in the scenic design and videos during the play. And, let's face it: when's the last time you heard a musical score performed by bassoon, cello, electric guitar, accordion, piano, trap set and pedal steel guitar? You'll hear it here and the musicians all do a kick-ass job.

Being a theatre person, of course, I could quibble with some minor points, but that probably has more to do with having seen so many incarnations of the piece. More than anything, I was impressed with all of the things that might have been changed and weren't. From the very first workshop I saw, the script had the actors regularly setting up scenes by talking about themselves and each other in the third-person, like a history lesson (a running theme in the piece); while I usually prefer to be shown not told things in plays, I've always thought Jim used the device well in The Blue Flower and I'm glad to see that it survived. There have been some new songs added to fill out the piece that complement the rest of the score well. The filmed elements of the play are more professionally executed than the first time I saw them—it was a workshop production, after all—but they're virtually unchanged otherwise.

Go see The Blue Flower: it's an intelligent, entertaining and beautifully presented production that deserves to be seen.

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