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Blue was the dominant color and the predominant emotional mood at the start of Burning Coal Theatre Company’s snappy staged reading of Blue, a new play written by Raleigh playwright Kelly Doyle and staged with brio on May 21st by ArtsCenter Stage director Emily Tilson Ranii. Doyle’s offbeat comedy chronicles the bumpy love affair between a frustrated and sexually unfulfilled young woman named Louise (played with warmth and wit by Jen Suchanec) and a big blue worm named William (Rajeev Rajendran), who works at a circus as a male prostitute.
Suchanec is altogether wonderful as Louise, who boldly rebels against her conservative upbringing — as personified by her overbearing mother Agnes (Dr. Kenny C. Gannon) — and cheats on her boring and hopelessly immature live-in boyfriend Adagio (Julie Oliver). Her form of rebellion is to have hot, juicy sex with the local circus’ chief attraction for men and women on the make: William the supremely talented and totally self-centered boy-toy. Indeed, Louise comes to love William almost as much as he loves himself, and the fact that he’s a big blue worm only makes their frenzied couplings more exotic to and exciting for Louise.
Jen Suchanec’s luminous characterization of Louise and Rajeev Rajendran’s outrageous chest-thumping antics as William provoke belly-laughs. Also highly amusing are Julie Oliver’s fussing and fuming as the unemployed painter Adagio, who betrays his unfaithful live-in girlfriend Louise by painting her nude, in her sleep, and selling that unauthorized portrait to an avaricious Art Dealer (Kenny Gannon) who knows what piques his prurient interest and, anyway, sex sells. Gannon also added a sharply etched cameo as a sexually adventurous Woman who patronizes male prostitutes such as William, but it was his indelible portrait of Louise’s meddlesome mom Agnes that earns the artistic director of Peace College Theatre his biggest laughs of a laugh-filled evening.
With a little fine-tuning, Blue will be ready for Prime Time and will have Triangle audiences rolling in the aisles. Much praise is due to dramatist Kelly Doyle and director Emily Ranii and their crackling good cast for extracting the comic nuggets from this promising new script and giving them a fine polish.
Burning Coal Theatre Company’s New Works Program of staged readings, which started with Blue on May 21st, will continue on June 16th, with a reading of Thesis by Bristol, TN playwright Tom Bryant.