nytheatre.com review by Paul Hufker
May 31, 2009
Everything can be solved. This is what the young, high-school-aged Carlotta tells the distraught, suicidal Giulio as the one-act Blue Day begins. Giulio enters, as a projection screen attached to scaffolding on the back of the play's sparse set projects video of what are in retrospect some of Italy's unemployed, struggling, working class. Giulio has a cardboard sign around his neck reading "I Lost," and carries a small can of gasoline which he promptly pours over his head. He waits for the television crews he has called to arrive, so he can set himself ablaze.
Carlotta enters, singing a Beach Boys tune, and with unbridled, rather precocious effervescence bombards the desperate man with a series of questions, inquiring into his life, and just why he has taken such drastic measures. We learn that Giulio has recently lost his job (hence the video of the unemployed) and has begun feeling as though he is not worthy of his soon-to-be wife. Swallowed by futility, frustration, and hopelessness, Giulio has chosen suicide as his answer. The unyielding optimism of Carlotta is at first a source of annoyance to Giulio, but eventually he opens up, revealing the sparks that have fueled both his figurative and perhaps now quite literal flames, such as the untimely death of his father due to poor conditions in his factory, and how because his job was passed down to Giulio as a young man, Giulio is no better, and his family will meet no better a fate. Giulio must make a decision, to end his life, or to believe in Carlotta's words, that "everything can be solved."
The premise of the play is compelling and could have taken many successful incarnations: There might be a Beckett-esque examination of the nature of man, the futility of living, or the difficulty of coping. There might be a Marxist examination of economy's crucial role in the makeup of a society, and how the alienation of money and commerce can sometimes remove us from the deep importance of knowing ourselves. Or perhaps as a branch from that tree, there might be a discussion of the importance within capitalism of the unionization of workers. Unfortunately, Italian writer/director Alessandro Corazzi wishes for Blue Day to encapsulate all three, and more. This can sometimes happen when a playwright directs his or her own work. So many discussions are attempted on so many fronts, the play hasn't time or capacity to explore them all in a satisfactory manner.
One disjointed sequence occurs when Carlotta walks to a trash can, removes a scarf from it, wraps herself in it, and sings "We Shall Overcome' which is immediately followed by her leading an imaginary protest with a bullhorn, arguing (even eloquently) against Capitalism, as the screen projects images of rallies, protests that have turned violent, and the downtrodden rising up. The play is suddenly having a discussion of the oppressiveness of Capitalism, and the jump is too shocking and jarring to be effective. Blue Day is too quickly on a soapbox about an issue it had so far only briefly touched upon.
Another disjointed sequence occurs when Carlotta, having been eschewed by Giulio, turns her iPod on and twirls about. She bangs on the scaffolding and in a loud, moaning, almost chanting voice speaks indecipherable words. When Giulio asks her what she's saying, she puts the iPod to his ears, which plays sounds of the ocean. The screen then projects images of calming water. It is the only use of nature as a metaphor in the play, and is not discussed beforehand, nor afterward, rendering the metaphor awkward and confusing. Further, we are outside the bounds of anything the play has examined to that point, economic, existential or otherwise.
If the play is ultimately about the life of a man, an intimate analysis of one man's woes and struggles, the dialogue at times approaches him in a distant, almost removed, purely cerebral fashion, as though the playwright, not the character, wanted you to know his thoughts. Like the other disjointed facets in the play these points are not reconciled, leaving the play to live in a shade of gray, which allows for neither a full understanding of the intellectual issues, nor a complete picture of the protagonist. Ira Lopez does a nice job of summoning frustration in Giulio, but the silences and subtlety of depression one experiences when one is truly suicidal are missing, and are replaced by what come across almost as whining about the common hardships of a tough economy, or a purely intellectual examination of pain. In the same way, Jessica Kuhne does a good job of playing the precocious, teenage Carlotta, and brings perhaps as many colors as she can to the role, but the script doesn't seem to allow for more, and there is a longing for more than, say, just "blue," from Blue Day.
A surprisingly beautiful ending makes for a lovely last moment, and all in all, the earnestness of the actors and the message contain the potential for important theatre. Corazzi might choose next time to wear only one hat, and that perhaps for Blue Day, might solve everything indeed.