in the skin trade: Landecker and Cordle in The Blue
By David Hare, adapted
from La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler, directed by Maggie
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
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
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
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.