By Andrew Bucket
The other day they put Dangerous Liaisons on HBOGO and I had a couple friends text me after watching it, asking if I knew that its the movie on which they based Cruel Intentions (which barely holds up, save for Joshua Jackson as the gay henchman and Selma Blair as the horny virgin). They said it hit them after the first act in Dangerous Liaisons that the plot was all too familiar. It’s weird and strangely comforting to discover that art dressed up in modernity is actually something quite aged, just wearing a new outfit.
I was supposed to meet comedian Dana Bell for drinks before seeing the Blue Man Group, so we could prepare ourselves- but she was late; in fact she was so late that we made it into the theatre as the lights went down. She said “I have no idea what to expect,” and I felt the same way, though I imagined it would be stoic and intense, like a dark and spaced-out Stomp– I had seen images of drums in the promotional photos.
How had such a cultural phenomena escaped us for this long? How was there such a gap; I at least knew before watching Breaking Bad that the show was about a meth dealing dad with cancer, but for the Blue Man Group I had only the details precipitated by the three words of their nom de troupe.
This show is, in it’s most reduced form, a comedy. Sure there is paint, percussion interludes (on instruments made of piping and barrels), wild psychedelic lights, and a backing band steers the experience into euphoric crescendos.
Yet underneath all of this techno-dressing is a very pure slap-stick comedy that is so golden-oldie that grandpas will be nostalgic, and so simple that a pre-lingual child (it’s silent physical comedy after all) will laugh out loud, the way a toddler laughs at a Dad prat falling on the floor.
I mention the kids because there are loads in the audience. During a gag where the blue men are trying to operate three giant I-phones that have descended from the ceiling, a kid audibly giggles “Mom, they don’t don’t know what to do!!” I said to Dana “he’s right! They don’t!”
During a French cafe inspired vignette, for which the Blue Men picked a pretty young woman from the audience, they all silently vied for her affections while dining on Twinkies that the Blue Men could not figure out how to open. One of them produces a candle, which another one quickly puts out with a giant fire extinguisher. This is classic clowning. The Blue Man group are performing perfect Marx brothers worthy gags, and have perfected the expressive fish-out-of-water silent comedy of Charlie Chaplin. This unbelievably trippy show that truly cuts the edge of music and visual art, at times like a Phish New Years Eve, and at times like the Residents at the MoMA, is also perfectly chill for you, your grandparents, your 5 year old, and you to laugh and be awed.
When Dana and I left, following a huge confetti explosion, we saw an old gent in a suit who had stuffed paper streamers where his pocket square had been, and a grandson wearing the same streamers on his head– both elated, and recounting the magic. We wished we had taken streamers too.