You Blew It!
nytheatre.com review by Theresa Buchheister
July 17, 2012
When I walked into You Blew It! my hopes were high. I dig game shows and sci fi (the formats this presentation has chosen to emulate) on a similar cultural level as pro wrestling. As an avid live performance attendee, I am immediately engaged by intentional and unintentional ambiance (in this case, a good-humored audience coordinator handing out horns to blow into, sound checks buzzing all around, and audience members goofing about). I was ready to have fun.
The show is a nod to old sci fi movies and '70s game shows, both known for a high degree of camp. There is a cast of standard characters we know and love (sleazy host, crazy-eyed hostess, bizarre celebrity guests, affable audience coordinator, young roller girl, mute stagehand, evil robot, conflicted doctor), including the theatre audience as the studio audience. As the game show ramps up, the narrative plot points begin to fall into place, the relationships unfurl before us, and we are called upon to join the fun. It is half audience participation/improv olympics/ trivia night and half scripted, near-doom sci fi story. All of these component parts could have come together to create a night of silly, energetic fun. But in the end, the necessary technique was lacking and I was left bummed and hot.
On the most basic level, the show is far too long and the theatre was sweltering (I watched the costumes change color throughout the performance due to how drenched in sweat everyone was). Note to venues and artists: Please provide fans or water or make the performance 40 minutes shorter if there is no A/C in the middle of July in New York. There are not too many shows for which I am happily willing to endure discomfort for more than 60 minutes.
On a deeper level, the show was weighed down by inconsistent performances and weak structure. A major proponent of the inconsistency was the necessity of proficiency in improvisation and traditional performance. Not all performers are jacks-of-all-trades, and those who were charming with improvised material struggled with the lines and delivery of the scripted words, and the other way around. Perhaps the incorporation of both performance formats made the show impossible to keep afloat. The moments that worked best seemed to draw on the natural skills and appeal of the performers (and a brilliant audience performance during the dance round). However, a large portion of the show seemed to demand more than was possible.
Structurally, the show is overlong as a result of too many game show segments involving audience members. The first one was comically encouraging (containing some great Charles Nelson Reilly riffing) and the dance round was the most entertaining segment of the night (high energy! high stakes! nonstop!). But the other segments seemed to compile and drag in a way that was only fun for friends of folks on stage. After well over an hour of on-and -off momentum, the road to the climax began. But it was a doomed peak of the story with a measured-voiced robot doing the most speaking, the highest energy characters passed out/dead and a labored chase on roller skates leading the action... It could not quite make it there, but it just kept going.
There were elements that rose above the heat and artistic flaws, however. Eric C Bailey was so effortless and witty, I could have watched him casually berate robots, children, pets, peers, potted plants... Whatever!... For an hour and a half. Similarly, I was taken with Jennifer Harder, whose manic energy seemed to channel a young Marilu Henner. There was also a subtly funny foot and dolly moment as a dead character was pulled off stage. And the dance, oh the delightfully frantic dance!
At the end of the experience, when the sweat dried and the flashes of fun faded into the eternity of a long night in the theatre, I was left wishing You Blew It! had lived up more to its promise.