- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

All that perfect flesh, so little fire. Signature Theatre’s production of “The Blue Room” is blue, but not red-hot. The one-act play seems to contain more tonsil hockey and grinding than the entire run of “Sex in the City,” and the two actors, Deborah Hazlett and Rich Holmes, are in such peak physical condition they could appear in a movie remake titled “The Prime of Miss Jean Booty.” Add to that thumping dance-club music, a set that features a huge, sweeping “O” (which either stands for orgasm or orifice), and a moral nihilism that would make Heidi Fleiss blink twice, and you’ve got the ingredients for a play that should be scandalously spicy.

Instead, “The Blue Room” emerges as rather clinical and depressing. British playwright David Hare’s writing is bracingly intellectual and political, but seldom would you associate him with the word “juicy.” He takes a Freudian (and we all know what a Hugh Hefner kind of guy he was) approach to sex, playing on the theory that we do not desire a person, but the idea of a person. So in the sterile spaces of “The Blue Room,” couples are confronted with the ideal and the reality, and the outcome is so lonely and disconnected it’s enough to make you swear to a life of abstinence.

For “The Blue Room,” Mr. Hare freely adapted a 1998 version of “Le Ronde” based on Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 original play, which depicted the myriad bed-hoppings of Viennese citizens apparently unhampered by the rigid social constraints of the turn of the century.

In the world of “Le Ronde” and “The Blue Room,” it’s like six degrees of sex-peration. Not only do all sorts of coupling combinations take place, but the various sex partners are connected to each other in ways that would have even the least cautious adventurer in the place considering buying condoms in bulk at Sam’s Club.

Miss Hazlett and Rick Holmes portray the various lovers, ranging from a prostitute, model, unhappily married woman and ego-struck actress to a student, politician, cab driver, nobleman, and playwright. In 10 brisk, ultimately soulless encounters, the couples simulate intercourse, which is flashed up on screens flanking the stage.

For a play like “The Blue Room” to engage the hormones as well as the brain, sexual chemistry between the two actors is essential. Miss Hazlett and Mr. Holmes look fantastic in their scanties and work like demons to churn up some steaminess, but the portrayal of lust is never convincing. Some of the scenes are supposed to depict love, but never do you feel any sense of intimacy.

Perhaps Mr. Hare deconstructs sexuality to such an extent in “The Blue Room” that there’s nothing left but hollow panting and flailing limbs. Or maybe director Wendy Goldberg is at fault for the overall feeling of distaste the play triggers. In her quest for glibness and cool cynicism, she has neglected the first rule of staging an erotic play: Thou Shalt be Hot.


WHAT: “The Blue Room” by David Hare

WHERE: Signature Theatre, 3806 South Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m.Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through July 11.

TICKETS: $22 to $36

PHONE: 703/218-6500


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