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BWW Reviews: Inventive Space and Witty Language in Brown Box Theatre Project's BLUE WINDOW

As a theatre artist, I am very excited by creative uses of space. Boston is not known for its abundance of theatrical venues, particularly those that are accessible to fringe groups, so I love seeing passionate artists and companies come up with new and inventive ways to stage their pieces. One such company is the Brown Box Theatre Project and one such space is the Atlantic Wharf. What appears to be the vast and open lobby of a large office building is transformed into a performance space, blurring the lines between patron and passerby, taking the show out of a confined and defined theater and practically putting it on the street.

The show in question is Craig Lucas's Blue Window, directed by emerging talent Anna Trachtman. The show, a speedy 75-minute whirlwind, concerns a group of young professionals before, during, and after a dinner party in the 80s. It's truly an ensemble piece, with each of the characters dealing with their own questions of connection, comfort, and contentment in their relationships. I found that this particular production focused more closely on the plights of the female characters, which I found to be a strong and successful choice.

This was my first experience with this piece and while I enjoyed it quite a bit, I question whether it was the best show to put in this particular space. While Trachtman worked well with the challenges of the script against the limitations of the venue, I still found there to be some difficulties with sound. There is a substantial amount of "real time" conversation, with people speaking over one another and multiple diatribes happening at once. In such a large, echoing space with terrible acoustics, this was overbearing. This is a part of the script, of course, and could not exactly be changed, and to it's credit, it did make the piece very real, allowing jokes to be awkward and letting audience members enjoy them at their own pace, but overall, it was less effective in this particular venue. I'm not sure how I'd suggest fixing that problem, but volume control seemed necessary.

Other than the unavoidable weirdness that comes with a public space (I couldn't help but be distracted by rolling suitcases and chatty businessmen on phones), I felt that Trachtman and the production team were very effective making the best of a challenging venue. Scenic design (by Megan Kineen) was sparse, but suggestive. Lighting design by Joey Guthman (seemingly impossible in such a unorthodox room) did well within its constraints, the most exciting parts of which was the flickering television and the use of bright color. And the costumes, designed by Emily Woods Hogue, were incredibly fun, screaming 1980s with the plethora of scrunchies, shoulder pads, and fluorescents. The overall look was very cohesive.

Trachtman herself expertly dissected a tricky script, paying equal attention to each of the weaving storylines. There were strong performances across the board, obvious ones being Margarita Martinez as Libby, painfully conscious of herself and everyone around her, and Jordan Clark as Boo, who became more and more loveable as she continued drinking the very alcoholic punch. But by the end of the show, I was actually most enamored with the quietest pair, Emily and Tom, played adorably by Erin Eva Butcher and Avery Bargar. Their relationship was simple and sweet, but their yearning and need read loudly, even if the characters pretended to be content. Butcher especially wore her combination of disappointment and eager hoping so earnestly. I didn't really understand the role of her full-length song in the middle (that's just a bone I have to pick with Craig Lucas), but she surely delivered the emotion.

Other than the sound related challenges, my critiques are minimal. This was a piece that changed drastically based on where in the audience you were seated, and perhaps that's why the beauty of Tom and Emily's relationship hit me so strongly, but that's simply another challenge of the location. Overall, this piece was witty, moving, and fiercely intelligent, and Trachtman seemed to navigate a rather dated script with relevance and ease, making it relatable to a contemporary audience. I would recommend keeping an eye on this director and on this company.

Directed by Anna Trachtman; Stage Managed by Abby Beggs; Scenic Design by Megan Kineen; Costume Design by Emily Woods Hogue; Lighting Design by Joey Guthman; Assistant Lighting Design by Taylor Ness; Dramaturgy by Katie Kierstead

Featuring: Avery Bargar, David Berger-Jones, Erin Eva Butcher, Jordan Clark, Cameron Gosselin, Margarita Martinez, and Erica Simpson

Brown Box Theatre Project's production of Blue Window plays at the Atlantic Wharf through the end of the weekend. It then travels to the Ocean City Center for the Arts in Delmarva, MD, where it will run from November 14-17. For more information, visit www.brownboxtheatre.org.


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From This Author Alex Lonati

Alex Lonati holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies and Journalism from Emerson College, where she spent four years hosting Standing Room Only, the (read more...)