Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Blue Flower

photo: Tyler Kongslie

Nothing if not ambitious and genre-defying, this off-beat musical (previously presented at the New York Musicals Festival in 2004) attempts a Dada-ist approach to both storytelling and presentation: it's a highly theatricalized collage of often musicalized bits and pieces that sketch in the changing dynamics of four friends in the first half of the twentieth century. (One of the four is a Dada artist.) Perhaps in keeping with turn-things-upside-down Dada principles, the (often fascinating, eclectically-inspired) music rarely moves the story or defines the characters - rather, the lyrics usually strive for poetic imagery - but that proves to become tiring when you realize that the book scenes that connect the songs don't pick up the slack to clearly define the characters either. Despite the bold breaking of form and a nearly ceaseless parade of interesting stage pictures (which sometimes include projected movies and stills) the moments that work best in the show are the most conventional ones: the always wonderful Nancy Anderson does beautifully by the number that comes closest to functioning as a typical character song, and Marcus Neville and Jamie LaVerdiere break through the show's veneer of emotional remoteness in a simple scene of conversation near the end. Otherwise the show is so determined to break the rules that it fails to make new ones that meet us halfway.

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