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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: Am I Blue (Fringe 2011)

Reviewed by Joel Fishbane

New York comedy fave Elizabeth Blue is giving Montrealers a masterclass in acting this week, but even if you’re not an actor you should make sure not to miss Am I Blue. A sharply comedic piece that satirizes Western culture’s quest for self-exploration, the strength of Am I Blue lies entirely in the deft performance of Ms. Blue. A veteran of NYC’s People’s Improv Theatre, Ms. Blue is a criminally funny performer who is almost certainly the love child of Kristen Schall and Tina Fey.

Written as a series of what is probably quasi-autobiographical monologues, Am I Blue follows the misadventures of a quirky and nameless New Yorker who bounces from sex therapy to self-help seminars as she searches for some store bought epiphany that will answer all her problems. A perpetually peppy, comically misguided girl who practices “boyfriend visualization”, Ms. Blue’s alter-ego can’t seem to decide whether to write a book about Francis Drake or start a business that will help housewives “unleash the inner cupcake decorator within”.

It’s all very funny, not the least because of Ms. Blue’s wide-eyed, unironic performance. But where she truly amazes is in her interactions with people who aren’t really there. Each monologue is directed at a specific person and Ms. Blue has perfected the difficult skill of putting this invisible person in the room: they don’t speak, but thanks to Ms. Blue’s pitch-perfect reactions, they don’t have to.

Am I Blue almost manages the impressive job of overcoming OPSS – One-Person Show Syndrome. A condition that affects seventy-five percent of Fringe shows, the symptoms usually involve a script that isn’t at all equal to the talents of the performer. In this case, Ms. Blue’s condition is pretty mild. The script could use a little medication and the transitions between scenes definitely go on too long, breaking the dramatic flow. But these are no doubt things Ms. Blue will work on as she fine-tunes what is one of the few shows that is worth putting up with that crappy pillar that sits in the middle of the audience of Venue 4.

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