Laser surgery required


By Tom Mullady
Directed by David Millman and Filippo Anselmi
The Open Door Theater Co.
Pulse Ensemble Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Andrès J. Wrath

To build comedies around taboo subject matter requires an enormous amount of skill and talent. There must be a point to what is happening on stage, or else the comedy is at the expense of the souls who inhabit the world of the play. Audiences laugh at the identification and not the pain. What we get in Blur is a really interesting premise clouded by clichés, character stereotypes, and tons of misery with no actual point.

The premise is simple: Herbert (David Burke) just inherited a TV set from his recently deceased father, who went postal and killed a bunch of people. The only problem is the TV talks to him. His wife, Shelly (Sandra Turner) is distressed, but the married neighbors - Edward (David Millman) and Muriel (Claudia Day) - offer foolproof remedies to their marital woes: Edward tells Herbert to beat his wife, and Muriel tells Shelley to poison her husband - but only enough to make his gums bleed. Meanwhile, at Edward's psychiatrist's office, Dr. Blanchard (Julius Bremer) gives his daughter Diane (Geraldine McKeon) a couch session to help her daddy fixation and nymphomania. Soon Herbert joins Dr. Blanchard's clientele list, and he must confront what really is bothering him.

In order for the proceedings to work, they need a new slant on plots and themes like dysfunctional families, domestic abuse, infidelity, and "the doctor is more insane than the patient" scenarios that inhabit Blur. The audience also needs to care about Herbert's plight enough to want him to be cured. A sympathetic character, or at least a character with enough of a need, would have helped the play. It seems the main concern of the play is that Herbert only wants to have his TV set stop talking to him. If that is the case, then he should just throw the TV out - or Mullady needs to make the TV more menacing, so Herbert can't. Even the real underlying crisis, of Herbert being afraid of going postal like his Dad, seems to take the back seat to the talking TV . Finally, Herbert's eruption in the play's conclusion is unearned.

The acting was forced and straight out of sitcom. Nothing in the actors' work alluded to truth or plausibility. What was present instead was scenery chewing, flat and empty line readings, and mugging. Perhaps with stronger acting, the play's premise might have been clearer or easier to fathom. The directors seemed out to sea with the play and their actors - perhaps with a heavier directorial hand the play might have come across as less mean-spirited and more in line with the playwright's intent.

The lighting design by Mark Schuyler and set design by Jeffrey Perren were serviceable but nothing more.

Box Score:

Writing: 0
Directing: 0
Acting: 0
Set: 1
Costumes: 0
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1999 Andrès J. Wrath