How to explain what I just saw? To be honest, I’m not exactly sure.
Because while Blue Man Group has been performing to rave reviews for 20-odd years, Friday night’s performance was the first I’d ever experienced.
And it was … interesting.
I should be able to drum up a better adjective for a show that felt like a series of Three Stooges routines performed by alien Smurf mimes, but as I stumbled out of Shea’s Performing Arts Center into the snowy dark, all I could feel was a vague sense that I’d been entertained.
Founded by three friends in the New York theater scene in 1987, Blue Man Group has gone on to tour the world, make albums, land a Grammy nomination and become synonymous with high-quality family entertainment. And judging by the electricity in the venue, generated by audience members of all ages, it would seem that the show hasn’t lost a bit of its mass appeal.
Friday’s show (the first of five, including two today and two more on Sunday) featured plenty of the PVC-pipe-xylophone fireworks that made the act famous – in which the trio of Blue Men unleash intricately syncopated pieces before being joined by its glow-in-the-dark backing band.
This stuff was impressive, the rhythms complex and mesmerizing.
But then there were the vaudevillian bits in between, which often made me wonder whether what I was seeing was funny, disgusting, bizarre, or all three. Is it fun to watch a man catch balls of clay in his mouth until it overflows, then bend over and regurgitate everything onto a table? What about when he walks into the audience and dumps his creation into a woman’s purse?
I’d say the answer to that is no, but I’m conflicted, because I do like the Blue Man characters.
At first blush, they’re utter innocents, an alien race come to earth with nothing but their insatiable curiosity and desire to entertain. But when you see them up close – which everybody seated on the floor did, thanks to the constant crowd interaction – they’re reminiscent of the aliens in the classic Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man,” seemingly friendly creatures with a devious glint in their eye.
No, nobody got eaten Friday night, but we did see a guy get covered in paint before being trussed up and slammed into a painter’s canvas. And we did see something involving Twinkies that I’m not sure I can un-see.
None of that compared to the big finale, a delightful dance party that was part Flaming Lips concert and part Beavis and Butthead conversation.
Now that I’ve had time to reflect, I think I managed to enjoy Blue Man Group, while at the same time getting totally creeped out by it. The entire performance was peppered with the laughter of the many children in attendance, so maybe I’m just irrationally afraid of wild-eyed men with blue faces and no ears that like to spit stuff at you.
Either way, it’s sure to provide some light entertainment for my nightmares.