'Blue Surge' provokes and surprises

By Sarah Adams
Monday, March 29, 2004

Within the first five minutes of "Blue Surge," the audience knows it's in for a ride. After all, not every play opens with a police bust at a massage parlor, including full male nudity. The women aren't wearing much, either.

But they're talking. With dialogue that dissects the politics and morality of prostitution and class issues, playwright Rebecca Gilman has created a drama that leaves the audience thinking after the last applause. It only gets better under the direction of Ken Webster. Although the dialogue gets a bit wordy and whiny as it follows the self-destructing Curt (Corey Gagne), Webster ties it together with a simple set and fast pacing when possible. The actors' close proximity also helps to involve the audience deeper in their characters as they bare all, body and soul.

The stage is divided into four simple settings, making the time between scenes only seconds. Although detailed down to a box of Kleenex in one corner and refrigerator magnets in another, the set doesn't distract from the actors and even complements their actions.

The four actors bring distinct characters to life. Kelsey Kling, Shannon Grounds and Rebecca Robinson portray strong women from upper and lower classes. Mical Trejo adds the comic relief as a police officer who doesn't seem to have his mind on the job.

Gagne's awkward and stiff portrayal of a man in the middle of a long breakdown balances the antics of the rest, but also augments the awkwardness in points of the plot. His character reacts surprisingly at points, as do the others, and it keeps the audience guessing at what happens next.

In the end, the meaning behind the play is as confusing as that of the song it's named after ("Blue Serge," by Mercer Ellington), but perhaps that's what makes it so intriguing.

'Blue Surge' continues 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through April 17, Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd St., $14-$16, 479-7529.