Sept. 22, 2017
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The Joy (and Misery) of Sex

October 10, 2007, 12:00 am
Local actors tackle each other to get to the heart of love.

Adapted from Arthur Schnitzler's Der Reigen, David Hare's The Blue Room follows the sexual exploits of 10 characters as they domino from bed to bed in search of physical and emotional fulfillment.
The first of 10 vignettes begins with The Girl (Megan Burns), who is at the start of her life as a prostitute, and The Taxi Driver (Nate Thompkins) in a brief sexual meeting; then follows The Taxi Driver to a dance where he seduces The Au Pair (Jody Hegarty) and picks up with the son of The Au Pair's wealthy employers, The Student (Matt Sanford), taking advantage of The Au Pair. Eventually, the play comes around full circle, to The Girl, now a year wiser and looking to get out of the business.

The Au Pair tells The Taxi Driver, "I'll only take a risk if it means something" and in the Santa Fe Performing Arts' production, it does. The company has put on a piece that revolves around the most personal of subjects, but the emotion behind that act affects the audience with its familiarity. The cast is strong and the actual act of sex is hidden from view, though it generally takes place in the middle of a scene. The amount of time that has passed is humorously projected on a wall and when the lights come back on, actors have mussed hair or have removed another item of clothing. It would be easy for a company to integrate more nudity but, in this case-as has been in the past with performances of The Blue Room-it would distract from the emotional quality of the story.

Throughout The Blue Room, characters-who are given familiar names in addition to their more defining societal roles-move through the myriad of emotions that are tied to sexual acts. Fear, insecurity, bliss, innocence, power and ego are inherent in each scene, though each theme is accentuated through the different relationships. For example, The Student first pushes The Au Pair into a sexual encounter, to which she willingly submits, before he is humiliated during his tryst with The Married Woman (Amanda Crocker).
Crocker's performance is the strongest in a cast that is dominated by its actresses. She plays the adulterous Married Woman with frailty and excitement, and reminisces about the past with the necessary balance of disappointment and childlike fondness in the following scene with her husband, The Politician (John Novak).

While the narrative calls for strength, ego and machismo from the male characters, the actors allow their performances to yield to those of the women. Only in the relationship between The Playwright (Nate Patrus) and The Model (Aimée Lasseigne) does the male outshine the female. Patrus gives the evening's funniest performance here, with an awkwardness that makes his character's unstoppable ego loveable, instead of causing The Model to seem like a victim of that overblown personality.

The only failure in the production are the too simple sets. The blue wall and purple bedsheets become repetitive, always facing straight ahead, no matter how different the relationship of one pair of characters is from the next.

Because of their dramatic nature, love affairs make perfect fodder for performance, but to present sexuality with neither gratuitousness nor the haze of fantasy takes nuance. Near the end, The Actress (Stephanie Hatfield) asks her admirer, The Aristocrat (David Trujillo) whether he thinks, "praise brings happiness?" While The Blue Room makes it clear that sex certainly does not always bring joy, The Blue Room does, indeed, bring happiness to the local theater scene.


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