Pamela Rabe in 'Blue Window'

Window on a party with a difference

In a program note to ‘Blue Window’ (St Martin’s), its author, New Yorker Craig Lucas, says he wanted to write a play about everyday behavior which had none of the constraints associated with conventional playmaking. In his play, he decided, the characters would be allowed to behave as they do in real life rather than in the heightened and somewhat artificial manner of most Western drama Some, for example, would reveal much about themselves; others would remain shadowy. The play as such would be less structured than the average social interaction play, but at the same time more true to life — more “real”. Lucas has been as good as his word. ‘Blue Window’ is a party play in three scenes — before, during and after the party. In the first and final scenes Lucas presents his seven characters, each in their own apartments, simultaneously.

Pamela Rabe in Blue WindowIn a film or on television, the camera would cut from one apartment to the other in quick succession. But in Lucas’s play all seven characters are present almost all the time. In the party scene they react to each other. But in the other two scenes, each group is unaware of the others, though they are physically proximate.

Sometimes their conversations overlap; at other times the conversation proceeds in a piecemeal way. One reveals herself in a monologue that explains the title of the play; another reveals herself in song.

The one character who is most sharply defined is Libby, the harassed hostess. In the dying moments of the play we discover why, although she is drawn to the two men in her life, she is wary of forming a relationship with either.

But those two, and the other four in the play — a lesbian writer, her therapist companion, a composer and his secretary-lover — are sketched in lightly. They come, they go, revealing relatively little about themselves.

Director Murray Copland and his cast cope very well with the demands of this unusual play. Pamela Rabe, in particular, makes much of her role of distraught hostess. The shifts and changes in the script — what in a conventional play would be called the comings and goings — are nicely orchestrated. The Playbox company production is helped in no small measure by John Beckett’s imaginative setting — clean of line and brightly lit — which gives the St Martin’s stage a depth it so rarely seems to have. I enjoyed the play and the performances at the time. Yet in retrospect it seemed rather like a nouvelle cuisine dinner — attractively presented but a little light in substance. Anti-drama is all very well; but the basis of drama is dramatic conflict, and in ‘Blue Window’ such conflict is deliberately kept at bay. The play is all the thinner for doing so.

The Age / 11 September 1985