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Sound and light mark wacky, wild Blue Man Group

BLUE MAN GROUP

Tubes

Created and performed by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton, and Chris Wink.

Charles Playhouse, through March 17.


By Rob Wagner
Staff Reporter

Aptly described as "wild," Blue Man Group creates its own world and sucks you in. Classifiable as a mixture of performance art, music, and flat-out comedy, Tubes is incredibly funny and a truly unique theatre experience. Stars Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton, and Chris Wink play three mimes whose heads and hands are painted the shiniest blue.

The concept for Blue Man Group originated in 1987 in New York City, when the three started experimenting with different, wacky theatre experiences. Their most recent act, Tubes, started in 1991 in La MaMa in New York City when they grew to incorporate music into the act. Often using written instead of spoken words, the Blue Men start off the show solely with electronic machines that scroll off words - just like financial shows. The scrolling words outline the ground rules of the show, and introduce certain members of the audience, asking them to do silly things.

We hear deafening music and drums, which seem to be pounding at our chests, when the Blue Men first appear and take turns doing drum solos. From there, they move on to music on unique percussion instruments, such as a plastic-tube xylophone and a home-made trombone.

Blue Man Group uses television extensively in Tubes. Between scenes, pre-recorded film interludes of Blue Man show on a huge TV screen, usually parodying documentaries. These films feature a woman's voice-over in a sarcastic documentary style. Throughout the show, they use more written words, in the form of more of those scrolling machines and also huge posters, to confuse and frustrate the audience at not being able to read them all.

Sometimes disgusting in their bodily stunts, the Blue Men don't mind making a mess. They use spit, Cap'n Crunch cereal, gumballs, some strange sort of noodle, and paint, which sprays upward nicely when poured onto the drums - all to entertain the audience. Clear plastic raincoats are provided for the front section of the audience, whom the group definitely includes in the show.

Two late-arriving audience members were serenaded with an annoying pre-recorded song, "You're Late" and shown walking in on the TV screen. Two other audience members participated directly in the show. The Blue Men gently humiliated one woman, whom they took on stage, while all three tried to woo her; and one man was given a huge smock and dipped in blue paint. The Blue Men often roam through the audience while the music from background musicians, shown on the huge TV screen, continues. Finally, Blue Man ends the show with a long visual extravaganza of tubes, strobe lights, and lots of paper, while the music in the background continues.

Though Blue Man offers no dialogue, and though the sample documentaries, while humorous, offer only simple parody, Tubes is primarily intended to be a sensory experience of sights and sounds. They create their own world of noodles and paint, and just being there is entertaining. Don't expect much in terms of social commentary, but Tubes from the Blue Man Group is definitely a crazy experience.