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Blue Man Group

Charles Playhouse
Boston, MA

By Mary E. Ladd

Who doesn't like drums? Or blue men? I like drums. I like blue men. Lucky for me, 'cause I was treated to their Christmas Eve "Tubes" show along with the whole Ladd Bunch. The mainstream is all hip now to the Blue Man Group now, them having hocked Intel Processors on TV all over the new millennium.

Like the funky Blue Man band, wearing ghostly body suits and suspended on an upper-stage, and the three blue men themselves, there is something intentionally anonymous about the cast. In fact, they're interchangeable in that they rotate. The Blue Man Group and the Tubes show, specifically, were started way back in 1991 (ages ago in theatrical years) by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton, and Chris Wink and now include four casts of men and one blue woman (for shows in Boston, New York, Las Vegas and Chicago).

On this last typical brutal freezer of a Boston Christmas, my family and I trudged down to the Charles Playhouse (one of Boston's own "Off Broadway" theaters...that's a little too far "off" if you ask me, but then you didn't). We were all conspirators intent on smuggling in my mild-mannered ("You're STUPID") three-year old nephew and two 60-plus year-old ("No, YOU'RE stupid") parents into this fashionable theatrical experience. We coached the kid to say he was six. The excitement of teaching him how to lie was in the air.

We arrived upon our third-row seats to find, placed upon them, clear but sturdy, full sized plastic ponchos with hoods. Okay, so I was beginning to understand why, one day before the show, these third-row seats were still available! It had nothing to do with other Christian theater-goers appropriately honoring Christ at all! We're just in the sludge-o-matic, watermelon spew-zone section, is all. Thinking that this was going to be a Gallagher show, we were...ah...not.

The kid seemed a little freaked out by the whole poncho thing. This may be a sign of a crying jag ahead, I thought, and years from now, him on a therapist's couch trying to get the picture of Grandma and Grandpa wrapped up in clear plastic ponchos out of his recurring nightmares.

Freaky art show with ponchos! What's not to love already? This was going to be nothing like the Christmas show we saw last year in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Although, I have to wonder what the difference is: 3 blue men, 30 blonde-haired, blue-eyed Pennsylvanian Dutch? If everyone looks alike, it's all a kind of art show.

In the kid's defense, the loud drums didn't scare him and the weird blue men staring at him or climbing over him didn't either. Nor being swallowed alive in a big sea of toilet paper. Although sitting in his own seat and being swallowed up by it folding in on him scared the bejeebies out of him (as that actually happened to him once when his Grandparents took him to see The Tigger Movie).

Hell, I was a little intimidated by all those blue shenanigans myself, but those blues were pretty darn funny. Sophisticated mime humor, you can't beat it. The brilliant paint splashing drums were mesmerizing. The whirling tubes overhead, a blue carnival. The multi-sonic drums were something of true and simple beauty and looked like a Seussical set piece, or like the back cover of Kate Bush's Greatest Hits album. All our senses being titillated: sight, sound, humor, touch. The Captain Crunch sequences even tickled our hunger pangs, as well.

Creepy blue paint mashers

And yes...that inevitable sea of toilet paper swallowed us all. I'll never forget that time in the show, after being lost under what seemed like a ton of toilet paper, rolling from behind, after minutes of seeing nothing but toilet paper all around me, I caught a glimpse to my right, once in a while, of my Father pushing toilet paper over his head and chuckling and once, past him, the kid holding toilet paper over his head and laughing his ass off. Sophisticated, interactive, toilet paper humor. You can't beat it.

Sea of Toilet Paper

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The Charles Playhouse

To prove I actually did read my program, I have to tell you some interesting Charles Playhouse history (history: it's a Boston thing). Built in 1839 as a Universalist Church, it then morphed in 1864 to be the first Synagogue in Boston. It was a speakeasy in Prohibition, a jazz club in World War II and in 1958, became a playhouse started by the Actor's Company (name dropping alum: Olympia Dukakis). So you see, all the major religions have been served.

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