Over one year, He (Max Hunter) and She (Christina Toth) rekindle their relationship through the lives of others. Some encounters are planned. Others random. Rich, poor, powerful, destructive, creative, desperate, and middling hook up and movie on, leading back the original prostitute. That’s David Hare’s slow-burning look inside The Blue Room, now playing with its two excellent leads at the WhiteBox Art Gallery.
Hare borrowed the premise from the Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 sex farce Reigen (Roundelay). The playwright got into trouble with Anti-Semitic Viennese censors and critics, but the play nevertheless became an international hit. It is also a film classic, Max Ophüls’s La ronde (Round, 1950), where narrator Anton Wallbrook introduces each incident from a merry go round. Hare striped down the plot lines in 1998, having one actor and actress play all the couples.
Bridge Production’s Artistic Director Max Hunter’s direction allows the viewer to discover the connections without overt signalling. Curiosity is created naturally. There are funny extras, such as posting of the time each lovemaking on a video screen ranging from zero minutes to hours, and preferred reading choice of several characters is Arthur Koestler’s Darkness At Noon, an unfunny 1940 novel about Communism but the kind of title that pretentious types impress other pretentious types with.
Hunter and Resident Artist Christine Toth not only move scenery, but move easily from each situation and character. His persona is usually befuddled, arrogant and rich. Hers appear insecure but smarter than they let on. That The Blue Room is performed in the basement of an art gallery allows their characters’ intimacy and the audience’s too.
The Blue Room opened on July 13, 2018, Remaining performances are July 22, 25-29 at the WhiteBox Art Gallery (329 Broome Street between Bowery and Chrystie Street, NYC). Tickets are $30 and available through The Bridge Production’s website. Audience size is limited to 40. La ronde is part of The Criterion Collection.