Douglas takes us through Craig Lucas’ looking glass
By Adam Tatelman, Contributor
Blue Window is a meticulously-structured play about totally fragmented people trapped in separate, yet seemingly empathic, environments as they all search desperately for meaningful connections with the people in their lives/immediate vicinities. It is a tragicomic peek into the private and public lives of these people who, in cleverly concealing the parts of themselves they fear or dislike, stand in the way of their own development—and even their own happiness.
The play revolves around the home and social lives of a handful of quirky folk: 33-year-old control-freak and widow Libby (Katie Doyle), ex-military skydiver Norbert (Alex Chan), obsessive studio musician Tom (Michael Kurliak), his taciturn girlfriend Emily (Shanelle Horobec), aggravated family therapist Boo (Maddy Osborne-Wood), her know-it-all lover and bestselling author Alice (Larissa Sampson), and the entertainingly enigmatic Griever (Aaron Holt). We are allowed to see each character in an isolated state before and after they all get together for a dinner party that makes up a third of the play, so we can witness the changes they make to themselves when they put up their social front. Some are less subtle than others; some are less stable. None of them are really happy though, and that’s what unifies them. Their experiences are different, but their emotions are the same; they are all dissatisfied with something that they feel powerless to change. Thus they stew, and mix well.
All of this is staged in a brilliant way; in the opening scene of the play, when each character is confined to their own private space on the stage, a literal window is lifted to allow us a glimpse into their worlds. Each little room is home to someone, yet the seemingly separate spaces can and do interact, eventually becoming one as the half-hearted party begins. Neither the rooms nor their inhabitants are divided by walls. There is no longer anything physically stopping the characters from reaching out—only the barriers that the characters imagine, their insecurities, and fears. Mirrors can be found in each room, reflecting the self-images of the characters back at them and at us, often leaving them alone with themselves. Outside of the party, conversations tend to be one-sided, if the second party is onstage at all. It goes to show that just because you have someone doesn’t mean you aren’t alone.
After the party, the characters are separated once again. The normally quiet Emily postulates that socialization might be made less brutal if we could all just wear our hearts on our sleeves. As the finale builds to a disparate chorus of loss and loneliness, underscored by a disharmonic piano melody, I couldn’t help but think that if such a thing were possible, we probably wouldn’t like what we’d see. When the window closed at the end of the play, I was filled with a profound sense of isolation, as though I too were now shut out.
This play is all about relatable human dilemmas. We change who we are because we’re afraid of what people will think if they see all of ourselves. We shy away from this and that because we don’t want to fail. Rejection terrifies us, as does loneliness, but if we do not brave the former, then we will have only the latter. Despite all the hopelessness inherent in a play about lonely people, I found the play to be uplifting in its implications; in the end, it is up to us to break out of our respective ruts. That means we have the power to do it. Don’t hesitate; make a flying leap out of that Blue Window.
Deborah Neville’s elegant production of Blue Window plays in the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre from March 15-23. Please support our talented student body actors and hard-working stage techs; get your tickets now.