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Adventures in the skin trade: Landecker and Cordle in The Blue Room.

Coed Naked Theater
By James Yeara

The Blue Room
By David Hare, adapted from La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler, directed by Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill

Capital Repertory Company, through June 9

Scenic Designer Donald Eastman creates the ideal set for director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill’s production of The Blue Room: The 6-feet-high, white column fragment upstage right leans to the left. The white portico hanging above upstage center leans to the left. The white door frame upstage left leans to the left. The gold-tinted portrait frame next to the column is twisted so that it leans left (all telltale hints of the production’s political leanings). The 10-feet-high, white curtains upleft and upright and the mauve curtain across upstage (framing the production in a nod to national museum exhibits everywhere) hang perfectly straight. The revolve, a rotating stage floor, is gray marble. Cardboard boxes, a bed, tables and chairs are brought in as needed for a scene, and set on the revolve. It’s the perfect economy of effort. The duration and location of The Blue Room’s 11 copulations in 10 scenes—“45 seconds” to “two hours, 28 minutes,” from a park to a triple-X boutique—are projected onto the portico. The sound of typewriter keys accompanies the projections. The sound jars.

The original compositions by Christopher St. Hilaire are perfect. Characters literally come and go, and Hilaire reinforces this with the music, creating snippets of appropriate music between the snippets of the 10 characters’ lives. Each character copulates with a different partner in a different setting, and the jarring techno, classical Baroque, or romantic concertos pillow these copulations. St. Hilaire’s music mirrors the blacked-out sex acts.

Steven Quandt’s lighting design creates the shadows, illuminations, and blackouts for each scene. Quandt creates places and moods: A bare light bulb glares for the copulation of the Cabdriver and the Au Pair; blue gels and gobos create the water reflections for the Cabdriver and the Girl screwing in the park; onstage candles cast a glow for the bare-studio coupling of the Playwright and the Model; fireflies and moonlight seem to light the Actress’ and the Playwright’s bondage play.

The BDSM crowd gets tapped by Thom Heyer’s excellent costume design. The Blue Room could be subtitled “variations on a theme in black.” Black vinyl miniskirt, black leather pants, black mesh T-shirt, black stockings, black body stocking and black knee-high boots fit the working-class screwing. Costumes get richer with the characters. The Politician is in a black pinstriped wool suit. The Diplomat wears a black velvet tux jacket. Like a vision from Ibsen, the Actress wears a flourish of a gown over a teddy. It becomes a diplomat’s dream.

Actors Dan Cordle and Amy Landecker become a dream pair. Their protean efforts create 10 distinct characters in their 10 daisy-chained scenes. They are physically naked frequently during the play, and their accents and focus do not waver. They flash flesh well. The 17-year-old, coke-snorting, pill-popping Model is distinct from the domineering diva of the Actress. More importantly, the Model coupling with the Politician for two hours and 28 minutes is distinct from the Model coupling with the Playwright for 69 minutes. Landecker shows the changes in the Model. More importantly, the hypocritical Politician is distinct from the heartbroken Diplomat. Cordle creates individuals. Most importantly, the fornication of the Married Woman and the Politician, the most affecting scene in this production, exposes not just flesh but wounded psyches, which long ago lost touch not only with each other but with themselves.

Cordle and Landecker show skin beautifully. They get laughs in the scenes frequently. But they make the audience silent and thoughtful during the Married Woman and the Politician scene. That is a mark of theatrical distinction.

Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill lives up to the distinction of being the artistic director. The Blue Room marks Capital Rep’s best production since I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. The Blue Room is smartly staged, stylishly supported by imaginative production, paced perfectly, and full of sexy humor. Mancinelli-Cahill’s The Blue Room is like HBO’s Sex and the City onstage.

The fluffiest of soft porn, this is more tease than sleaze. The physical nakedness is never in-your-face or slap-in-the-face, however. The only blemish on Mancinelli-Cahill’s The Blue Room is the stinting of the play’s and the characters’ emotional nakedness—save for the Married Woman and the Politician scene. But this is more than “the naked play.” It is a production that deserves to be seen and heard.

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