Blue Room continues on offbeat path with two new productions
Always a flurry of activity, the Blue Room Theatre is especially abuzz lately as cast and crews prepare to premier two separate productions.
A Bard’s Tale: The Heroic Triumph of Sir Walter Over the Nihilists, or The Lamentable and Tragic Death of Squire Donald of Greece—a Shakespearean retelling of The Big Lebowski—and a nonmusical version of The Little Shop of Horrors based on the cult film both open May 20 at the theater.
“Generally speaking, we’re trying to constantly put up new stuff,” Blue Room Artistic Director Benjamin Allen says of the latest offbeat openings. “There’s so much out there. It’d be really easy to retread all the old classics, because people like them and they put butts in seats, but it really would be doing a bit of a disservice to all the other writers out there.”
A Bard’s Tale is based in part on the work of Adam Bertocci, an unemployed New York film major who wrote a Coen Brothers/Shakespeare mash-up called Two Gentleman of Lebowski that went viral on the Internet. “It’s based upon what Bertocci wrote, but as a favor to him we’re not putting his name on it, as he’s in the process of writing the definitive script,” Allen says. He also says he is communicating with Bertocci and plans to share production notes with him.
“Really, we’re workshopping this. It’s not a finished, final product. I think there’s a possibility this idea will have legs and eventually be seen as a professional production. But that’s what’s nice about being a nonprofit; we’re not doing it to make money, so we get to play with it a little more, we can take the risk on a production like this.”
So who wrote A Bard’s Tale?
“Shakespeare!” Allen says. “All the language is a mismatch of other things he’s written, compiled with lines that will seem vaguely familiar from other pieces. Matt [Hammons, director], myself, Craig Blamer [Late Nite programming honcho who also appears in Little Shop], and all the actors helped, it’s been a real collaboration. It’s really writing by committee, and it continues to change. Since it’s a workshop, I think it will continue to change over the course of the three-week production.”
While it’s not surprising for a community theater to undertake Little Shop of Horrors, the more common theatrical production is the musical version, which in turn is based on the 1960 Roger Corman film detailing the macabre goings-on inside a Skid Row flower shop.
“All of our late-night programming is done by Craig Blamer,” Allen says. “He was really interested in it because it started the movement of midnight movies. It really was the original midnight movie.”
The Corman film is also notable as the only feature film to be shot in less than 48 hours and features an early appearance by Jack Nicholson.
“It’s more suitable for the Late Nite,” Allen says of the original versus the musical. “It shortens it. We might do something the last week where we have the audience sing some of the songs, because some people do have a deep love of the musical version.”
Minus the show tunes and jazz hands, the Blue Room’s production is a lot more pulp than camp, as witnessed at the May 9 preview. Skid Row nights are dark, in and outside the flower shop where bodies are dismembered and fed to Audrey Jr., who is only a pod-headed puppet in her debut scene, morphing into human actress Caroline Bartlett as she grows. Bartlett plays dual roles, also sitting in as hero Seymour Krelboin’s hypochondriac mother Winifred.
Krelboin is played by Murri Lazaroff-Babin, who milks Seymour’s proto-nerd awkwardness to great effect. Samantha Deschler shines as Seymour’s love interest, the naïve (human) Audrey.
As can happen in community theaters, the Blue Room’s Little Shop hit a major glitch in its last few weeks of production. At the preview, director Nicole Danielle had to step into the role of shop owner Gravis(a) Mushnik.
“It’s volunteer theater, y’know, people have lives and people have jobs,” Allen says. “They should have a replacement by the opening.
“Having done it several times myself in the past few years, I know it’s always tough for a director to step into any role, and you really do want them on the outside looking in. I’m confident it will all come together. In my years here at the Blue Room, no matter what, the show has gone on.”