nytheatre.com review by Saviana Stanescu
January 22, 2010
Revived by Extant Arts Company, Rebecca Gilman's play Blue Surge, about small-town people trapped in the vicious circle of class and circumstances, is still oh so relevant and poignant.
Gilman's texts generally explore the inner and external conflicts of people struggling to break the limitations of their birth and upbringing, to connect beyond their sphere/box of predictable life patterns drawn by class and race issues. Her characters stand out tragically through self analysis and a painful awareness of their limitations. Are they going to push themselves beyond their boundaries, or will they surrender—as many many others—to a daily routine of survival and conformism?
Curt, the main character in Blue Surge, is a small-town cop with a modest upbringing and a middle-class fiancee, Beth, who pushes him to become a lieutenant. During a raid at a massage parlor suspected to be a cover for prostitution, Curt meets the young hooker Sandy and, seeing something pure and honest in her, becomes somewhat obsessed with "saving" her and putting her on the "right" track of a decent existence—a respectable job and of course society's acceptance. The problem is the hooker doesn't really want to be "saved." She finds her work more honest and decent than others', plus it brings good money. Her integrity and truthfulness brings turmoil to Curt's soul, ultimately leading him to try to become who he really is, without the pressure and expectations of others. What he finds in Sandy is a similar difficult past: they don't judge each other, they understand the tricky ways in which poverty and family circumstances can put you on a path that you might not have taken otherwise. There are fewer choices for lower class people and Gilman succeeds in conveying this while creating wonderful believable characters who are far from "respectable" but find love, truth, and understanding in each other.
Curt, the cop, is deeply conflicted; he doesn't really like his job, he never fully enjoys the dinners with Beth's middle-class friends, he doesn't feel he belongs there. Only Sandy seems to understand him when he finally talks about his love for trees and his precious dream. But is that enough for a happy ending?
Curt's colleague and friend, Doug, and Sandy's roommate, Heather, manage to sustain romance and partnership in a subplot that intelligently counterpoints the journey of the main (im)possible couple.
The cast does a good job in creating touching and precise characterizations, the director Kat Vecchio leads the team with a sure hand, and yes, the play does fly in this production. Go see it. It will make you think, it will make you wonder, it will—hopefully—make you ask yourself some hard and honest questions and maybe even find some answers.