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Saturday, 26 April 2014 15:53

Senses subject to assault and battery!

Written by Steve Callahan

The Details

  • Director: Matt Goldman, Chris Stanton, Chris Wink
  • Dates: April 25 - 27, 2014
Senses subject to assault and battery!

I went to "Blue Man Group" at the Peabody last night and my eyes, my ears, my intelligence, my taste and my patience were all violently assaulted.  This sort of production is aimed at audiences who won't be satisfied unless they're left staggering out the doors, reeling from sensory overload.

But sprinkled around in that ultra-high-tech psychedelic world of Blue Man Group, replete as it is with blasting percussion and moronic humor, there are some quite amazing tricks.  Some are very high-tech; some are done just with incredible human skill; and some depend only on a gadget or two and a splendidly subtle sense of timing.

There are even a few moments of inspired—even gentle—comedy.  And there's one final moment that lifts the audience, as a man, into childlike ecstatic rapture.

You've seen the Blue Men—their heads a sleek, slick cerulean blue.  Bald, earless, but with clearly distinct eyes and mouths, they look like vaguely reptilian aliens.  With unshakable expressions—half curious, half apprehensive—they explore an unfamiliar world and find wonders in it.

My expectations were lowered considerably when, before the show, some crawling text on the proscenium, after asking us to turn off our cell phones, proceeded with some extremely lame attempts at humor.  The sheep-like audience obeyed like robots when the scrolling text called on them to chant out "Happy Birthday" or other greetings to certain members of the audience.

But the performance begins hopefully.  The three Blue Men, backed by four caged, prancing, phosphorescent musicians, play some very engaging music on bizarre marimbas.  Much fun is had when one Man pounds out intense rhythms on conga drums—as his fellows pour yellow and pink paint into the drum-heads.   Splash, splash, splash!   Wheee!

There are pervasive vast flowing, whirling psychedelic projections.

There are circuslike tricks, as when one Blue Man throws—what?  Marshmallows?  Paint capsules?—across the stage to his fellows, who catch them expertly in their mouths.  (One receives and holds an incredible number of these missiles!)  Then, somehow, they proceed to create art with the contents of their mouths.

There are bits about giant i-pads, which involve a lot of reading and seemed modestly successful with those in the audience who are absorbed in the on-line world.  Some of the jokes are about as funny as those dumb things that that old high-school friend keeps sending you in e-mails.

There is a delightful bit where the live Blue Men mingle with projected Blue Men as they pass to and fro before and behind three narrow projection screens.  There is a stunning bit where animated drawings dance among the live Blue Men.

From time to time audience interaction is encouraged.  The Blue Men often come down into the audience—clambering over the arm-rests sure-footed as mountain goats, holding onto heads in the audience for balance.  Some in the audience are selected for participation in the show.  One accommodating man in the first row allowed them to thrust a mini-camera right into his mouth;  the audience got a clear view of a slimy (and apparently inflamed) glottis. Was it his?  Or was it stock footage.  Anyway, it was truly revolting!   But it was not all so bad.  There is one obviously fake bit where a young man is outfitted with a jump-suit and helmet, then taken off stage to be doused in paint and "filmed" as he's banged against a huge canvas.   It might have been funny if it were real;  to fake it is really beneath the skills of this troupe.

But one audience-participation bit was the most delightful piece of the evening.  A young woman joins the Blue at a table set for dinner.  A gentle, ingenuous courting proceeds as she and the three Blues dine on—Twinkies!  It's silent, it's hilarious. And it's touching.

There is much wild percussion throughout, and it's far too loud—ear-damagingly loud.  A great bass drum thunders and booms so as to shake the Peabody to its deepest foundation.  And there is frequent and arbitrary use of blinding strobe lights.  For a long time the audience is required to participate in exercises on how to behave like really stupid fans at a rock concert, to wriggle their butts, and to chant a thousand imbecile slang terms for that part of their anatomy.

But at the end there is that moment!  That moment of awe and of joy.  Huge illuminated inflated colored balls are released into the auditorium—a dozen or more.  It is impossible for us not to rise, not to reach for those wondrous floating orbs.  What joy, what satisfaction to actually touch one!  They dance above us for a few minutes . . . and then the show is over.

Blue Man Group should turn the volume down, they should eliminate all the reading exercises and the stupider bits of audience participation.  Then they'd have a show I might want to see again.

Additional Info

  • Director: Matt Goldman, Chris Stanton, Chris Wink
  • Dates: April 25 - 27, 2014

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