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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Out of the Blue
By David Avery
We find Gary leaving his environs and traveling to New Orleans to visit his mother (Mama Bean played by Tina Preston) and step-father (Daddy-O played by Hugh Dane). Various clues indicate that the action occurs shortly after hurricane Katrina hit the city. Mama Bean is hooked up to life-support and requests that Gary "pull the plug" so that she can die peacefully. This sends him into an existential musing that incorporates several people from his past, including his dead son and ex-wives.
Unlike the first three of the cycle Out of the Blue has absurdist elements rather than straight narrative. While the previous plays centered mainly on Gary’s real life and experiences —though that's not to say that the series didn't have elements of magical realism. As someone who has seen the whole cycle I’m not sure the overall story being presented benefits from the change in tone.
One of the main problems is the change in Gary's nature. Though he was a troubled, difficult, and selfish character he still evoked sympathy (both from the weight of the character and the strength of the performance). Kissman’s Gary acts as a comic foil for the other characters on stage and consequently seems a muddled old man (probably because he has stopped taking his medication).
With Gary so much on the sidelines, most of the play's ideas are put into the mouth of his stepfather. And so it's Gary who is led down into Hell, it's Daddy-O who puts the trip into perspective for him. Gary’s psychiatrist Dr. Jones (Gray Palmer) also appears to act as a doubt inflicting anti-father.
As in the initial three plays, two chorus members comment on the action, and at times assume roles for Gary to interact with. This now comes off as a bit too flippant and gimmicky.
One of the joys of the first three plays was uncovering the story slowly, play by play. For those uninitiated to the Gary Cycle, Out of The Blue might be a bit confusing — too much of a quick rehash of the major plot points of the first three plays, minus the emotional relevance.
There is some good set design, with Mama Bean perched above all the action in a chair that simultaneously depicts a hospital bed, an electric chair, and mad scientist experiment. She and Daddy-O occupy this position for most of the play, and comment randomly on the actions of the other players, sometimes finishing they’re sentences and interjecting words into their speeches. This mirrors their positions in Gary’s mind, as almost supernatural.
Perhaps the title of the play was inspired by the abrupt tonal shift away from a more serious endeavor. Hopefully, the next episode can be brought back into a more realistic frame
For a review of the first three plays in the Gary Cycle, see this link.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater