Blue Man Group

Created, Written & Directed by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton &Chris Wink.

Produced by Blue Man Productions.

At Briar Street Theatre, Chicago.

The Gimmick That Keeps on Giving.

With 26 years in the States and 20 years in Chicago alone, Blue Man Group is perhaps the longest-running gimmick in theater entertainment—the caveat being: it’s actually entertaining. I saw it once, several years back, in New York, and I wasn’t sorry to see it again, though I’d say my enjoyment had less to do with the new material (which is minimal and unremarkable, on the whole) than with the fact that the show is simply good, clean fun.

The show consists of three blue mimes who play percussive instruments (mostly of PVC piping), mess around with colorful paints, and perform odd acts, all while regarding with ingenuous, alien curiosity the laughs, aww’s, shouts, and other reactions of their human audience.

For example, the show begins with a short drum session, then kicks off when one of the blue men pours paint onto a drum, the result being a colorful splash with each hit: that’s the show in a drum shell. The “odd acts” consist of tricks—such as when two men catch marshmallows and paintballs in their mouths and then create “art” with their mediums—and what one might call parodies—such as when an audience member is invited on stage to dine fancily with the men—on twinkies. Most if not all of the tricks and parodies make some oblique cultural comment on how funny our human rituals and obsessions are. But that’s not important to understanding the show: it’s just amusing. (There’s also a bit of dumbed-down science thrown in, but it’s played-off tongue-in-cheek, and that’s just amusing, as well.)

The show is strange, but oddly captivating, predominantly due to the performances of the blue men who are incredibly emotive and communicative in their expressions and gestures. The rigorous amount of training and rehearsing they must do to prepare for this show is unmistakably evident in the production, easily the most professional I’ve seen, native to Chicago.

As you might imagine, music makes up the backbone of the show, and the three blue men are accompanied by a three-piece band (drums, Chapman stick, and zither). The style of music is eclectic, incorporating everything from dance to world music with a distinctive hard rock spine, which, to me, sometimes resembled contemporary progressive rock in its varied instrumentation. Nevertheless, it maintains a broad appeal with attractive rhythms and melodies in which everyone can find their feel-good groove. By the end, everyone is literally standing in a dance party, complete with huge, colorful balloons.

Blue Man Group is for everyone: kids, couples, visiting in-laws, clients, fun people, boring people, people with taste, people without taste. It’s an immersive, multi-media, comedy-rock-dance-party-show spectacle for all! If you haven’t seen it, you should; if you haven’t seen it recently, bring the kids, the new girlfriend, the family you have nothing to talk about with; if you have seen it recently, you might just as well wait a couple years, it’ll be around.

Highly Recommended.

 August Lysy

 Playing at the Briar Street Theatre, 3133 N. Halsted St., Chicago. Tickets are $49-$99. For tickets and information, call the Briar Street box office at 773-348-400, 800-982-2787.