The Blue Room brings honest sex to the stage
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 11:02
Sex has long flagged our social system. How do we talk about it? Does it deserve to be talked about? Explored? We encounter it on a daily basis yet it is still a sort of taboo thing. After all, human beings would not exist if we didn’t have sex.
These are the topics that are explored in the Department of Dramatic Arts production of The Blue Room.
“Sex is a pleasurable thing and it’s about people sharing,” said Virginia Reh, Professor of Dramatic Arts and Director of The Blue Room.
The Blue Room follows 10 sexual encounters between 10 couples in 10 scenes. It is a reflection on men and women and how they build relationships — both social and personal — through sex. They all have casual sexual encounters that in one way or another substitutes for a mostly unsatisfactory account for human connection.
When Reh was thinking of plays to put on she had thought of Schnitzler’s La Ronde that was first produced in 1921. In the process of finding a translation that wasn’t too “stilted” she discovered that David Hare had done an adaptation of it in 1998 that he called The Blue Room.
“It’s a very respectful adaptation. I thought it was even better for my current day audience and it wouldn’t be hiding the actual issues under period costumes. It was better to work with a script that’s more modern,” said Reh.
The play pursues that idea of random connection and separation through sex. While the characters encounter each other through sex, they come to realize more about themselves and what they might want, if anything, beyond sex.
The production showcases the talents of students in the Dramatic Arts undergraduate program including Kendra Neaves, who plays The Actress, and Chris Chapman, who plays The Playwright, and who are one of the 10 couples.
“I was completely caught off guard by the script. With our characters they are just so comfortable with their sexuality. The way they work sex into the scenes it becomes the everyday and it is just sex for them,” said Chapman.
Chapman and Neaves both adapted into their roles easily, which speaks to the power of connections made within the play.
“It’s how sex affects people and how people use sex. For my character, sex is just like an every day thing. But every other character has a want and a goal whether it’s connection or love, they use sex to try and gain something else. I love how my character has such a strong sexuality,” said Neaves.
In Hare’s original production there were two actors who played every character. Since then productions have had 10 actors, but Reh’s production will have an eleventh character in the form of an establishment.
“We spent a great deal of time wondering why it’s called The Blue Room in the first place. So we started exploring what these 10 encounters meant and what they are to us and what they were was an expression of people looking for a connection through sex which isn’t necessarily the best way to find it. You can find temporary connection but I don’t think you can find the kind you’re looking for. So we looked at how these people get matched up and why. We decided to set it in a space that’s an establishment where these characters can enact their sexual fantasies with their partners and do what they want to. It’s a space where you can enact your fantasy in elaborate detail,” said Reh.
While the characters spend their time looking for a form of connection it becomes increasingly complex as to what their ultimate goal is.
“In each scene I think some people get a bit of the puzzle they’re looking for or at least an inkling of what it is they’re searching for or they make a discovery of what is out there and what that means to them,” said Reh.
What makes this play so intriguing is that it plays loosely on monogamous relationships. Character A sleeps with B who sleeps with C, until it has come full circle and the final character sleeps with A. However, there is no moral judgment because as Reh points out, “It’s a physical need. Cheating is not what it’s about.”
To use a clichéd phrase: sex sells. However, this play is so much more compelling. It tackles sex at it’s most basic roots, in an honest way, without any social stigmatism.
Ultimately, the play is questioning how one distinguishes between realistic expectations and romantic ideals since sex has a way of complicating things, but it also has a way of working situations out.
“I think with each scene [distinguishing between realistic expectations and romantic ideas] is answered with the partners but not always the way they might want it to,” said Reh.
Performances will be held in the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre, Brock University on February 14, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee performance on February 15 at 1 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, $10 for groups and $5 for the eyeGo high school ticket program. Tickets are available at the Centre for the Arts Box Office. For more information about this production and the Department of Dramatic Arts visit brocku.ca/humanities/departments-and-centres/dramatic-arts/events-at-dart