Review by Carly Fisher
Fringe Festivals can provide such a mix of productions - you’ll see some things that are in the very early stages of their development and some that are exceptionally high quality and that stay with you well after the festival. And then, once (if you’re lucky) a festival, you’ll see a piece and know that you just saw it before it went big…and I think Blue deserves to be that show this year.
I’d say that you’d hope that it goes from the small Assembly Box theatre to Broadway but I would be lying because I would hate to see the show stripped of its intimacy in such a large space. But if any high quality off-Broadway sized theatres find themselves reading this, I’d grab this show as quick as you can.
Timely, important, poignant, exceptionally well written, excellently performed…I could go on for a while here. This two hander play focuses on two cops - one having just been promoted to a Force Investigation Division, the other a Sergeant. Sergeant Boyd Sully (John Colella) is being reviewed after shooting an unarmed Black man and leading the investigation is Detection/wife of his old partner LaRhonda Parker (June Carryl). There is history between these two - there are laughs (however forced) and stories of fishing trips and questions of memories and current wellbeing. But even within these conversations, there is an awareness that Sully introduces into the conversation within the first few minutes of the lights going down - ‘I voted for Obama’ he says.
As well as showing off some incredible acting chops, Carryl wrote the play as well. Intentionally fuelled by tension, Carryl’s writing is strong, despairingly relevant and haunting. In the wake of George Floyd and the January 6th storm on the Capitol, both events inspiring this play, Blue is a piece of theatre that will stand to define this time in our collective history and with that, Carryl has created an enormous gift for the theatrical cannon, however heartbreaking.
Within just an hour, an extraordinary amount of context is given both to the relationship between these two - which may as well be an onion it is so layered and complex - and to the state of the world. We learn details about characters we never meet and are given detailed descriptions of places we never see. It’s a short play but it is packed with detail that creates the entire world for you…and then, on top of that, we all bring in our knowledge of recent events and our experiences of living in this crazy world. I can’t say enough about just how good the writing is.
The performances are nuanced. The timing throughout is superb. The direction is a masterclass. This fringe show is ready for a New York run.
The only decision that did not sit for me was in the last minute of the performance. I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t detail how the story progresses but to see that the air in the theatre thickens throughout. Carryl has written such an unbelievably strong female character into this work that I was hooked from the get go because it remains too rare that we see female characters like this. So when the last thing that we get to see of her is a breakdown, my heart broke a bit as I watched another female character relegated to tears by the injustices of the world. YES - that’s fair enough but no, I don’t want every woman to have to break down or cry, etc - sometimes, just seeing someone needing to catch their breath is enough. It’s a frustration, a pain, an angst, etc that most women in the room will identify straight away…the burden of suffering in silence. The last minute returned me back to a small shipping container theatre and out of the investigation room I had been so committed to, which was a massive shame…especially with other extremely powerful elements going on at the same time (no spoilers I told you).
Despite that one fault, the production is flawless and is hands down one of the strongest pieces I saw at the fringe. I can’t wait to see where it goes next. it’s a hard watch because of its themes, but whilst the list of names of People of Colour dying a the hands of the armed forces grows, it is one that we all MUST watch.
I saw this show on the last day of the Fringe Festival - what a way to end!
This is a show I will see again and again…