Sunday, July 30, 2006

Blue Man Group

A cheerful post to push the last one down the page a bit. Yesterday as an anniversary present, Ken took me to see the Blue Man Group.

I don't want to describe it in too much detail. Part of the fun was realizing how closely "confusion" and "delight" are related. Part of the fun is being constantly surprised.

But before I went I was really curious to know what I was going to see. They were expensive tickets. How could I be sure this was really up my alley?

So the whole time I was there I was trying to think of how to describe it, what I would tell people so that they would know what alley it was up.

When you first enter the lobby (of the Briar St. Theater in Chicago which has hosted the Blue Men every night of the week since 1997) the network of pipes and tubes above your head -- like the intestines of some plastic-and-metal animal -- and the weird lighting, and the wire sculptures, and the surrealist paintings made even more surreal by the insertion of blue men into them, give you the sense of being in line for a theme park ride. It reminded me a bit of the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, not that I expect that will help anyone else. That was billed as "multimedia experience," which I suppose is what the Blue Man lobby also is. Look out for tubes that seem to be breathing. Or those labelled "chat tubes." Use the bathroom before taking your seat and enjoy the "Blue Man Lobby Bathroom" song. Damn catchy.

When the show started, it was hard to be sure whether it had started at all. I felt like a subject in a psychology experiment. Something about group dynamics and susceptibility to suggestion. The whole crowd was reacting... Started to feel like the call and response parts of church, or when the whole congregation welcomes new parishoners. And yet we were all still waiting for the lights to go down and the curtains to open, at that point.

But when it did really begin, it was with a bang. Literally. The Blue Men are all drummers. That is probably the simplest true description you could give. They don't talk except through the drums (although that doesn't mean there are no words in the show. Just that they don't say them) so they might be called the loudest mimes you've ever seen. But the percussion is not the only thing going on, although it is amazing, and they do have an album. The drumming parts of the performance are also a light show of sorts. The parts in between the drum performances are not without music -- there is another live, three piece band above the stage. They play while the Blue Men do prop comedy or magic or puppet theater or concept art or hilariously surreal improv with victims from the audience. The prop comedy is also surreal. You keep thinking, "where did that come from?" Like Wyle E. Coyote pulling signs from behind his back. Where did he get them?

They keep straight faces, always. Can't crack that blue paint. It makes them seem even more otherworldly. It's like being entertained by aliens -- aliens from the future.

When we first arrived, what I was expecting was something maybe a little like the luau show we went to in Hawaii, which did have lots of drums and dancing and light... And it was like that. If the luau were hosted by aliens. Ken said it reminded him a little of the people who filled the time at his high school variety show between acts, interacting with the audience. If those people were aliens.

When we were actually seated and confused about whether the show had begun or not and I asked him for the last time what to expect, he told me to expect "a party." And that was maybe the best description. Except it was a party without anyone standing apart and feeling awkward. At no time was the audience not involved. Everybody there was having a good time. This is an experience that I wouldn't hestitate to recommend to anyone, of any age, no matter what your tastes -- unless you're an alien from the future, this isn't like anything you've ever seen anyway.

So just to recap, here are the things the Blue Man Group is "just like":

A theme park ride
The Heineken Experience
A rock concert
A mime show
A magic show
A light show
A puppet show
Stand up comedy
Concept art
Wyle E. Coyote cartoons
Aliens from the future
A luau
A variety show continuity act
A party

If any of that sounds like something you would like, you should go see them.


filipelamas said...

Congratulations for your blog!
Keep on with the good work!

Simon said...


Nice description.
I've still never got around to seeing them....... but if you like them, you should also try Cirque de Soleil (if you haven't already). Of course I can't compare... I suspect that Cirque are a bit less silly/random, but they still have the capacity to surprise...