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Carmen Aguirre. Photo: Andrew Alexander
Carmen Aguirre. Photo: Andrew Alexander

Theatre Review: "Blue Box" at the Great Canadian Theatre Company

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Carmen Aguirre's BLUE BOX is running at GCTC in Ottawa through February 3. The 90-minute play, performed without intermission, is autobiographical and broad in scope.

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Reported by

Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

BLUE BOX, written and performed by Carmen Aguirre, deals with two aspects of her life, both concerned with passion of different kinds. There is her passion as a youthful revolutionary in the Chile of Pinochet and there’s her romantic passion for a Hollywood movie star when in her early thirties.  The structure of what is essentially a monologue is problematic.  It shifts abruptly and constantly in time and place with no apparent reason or connection, making it difficult to follow.

Miss Aguirre takes a direct approach to the audience that might better be called “in your face.”  This could be effective in a smaller space but doesn’t work past the first couple of rows at GCTC.  I was in the fifth row and felt distanced from both the material and the performer.  With so much of the first part played within a foot of the audience, the rest of the large playing space loomed as a dark empty cavern.  Only later when a panel dropped upstage and Miss Aguirre made use of the stool stage center did Itai Erdal’s set look something like a set.

In her program notes Miss Aguirre refers to “unconditional love . . . the romantic and the revolutionary."  The passion of the young revolutionary is clear and understandable.  However the depiction of romantic love seems to be primarily about lust and contains a gratuitous amount of sexually graphic language.  The section about working for a phone sex company is entertaining but hardly equates with romantic passion – not even the tale of young Billy from Kentucky.

I’m generally an admirer of Brian Quirt’s direction, particularly his work with Pierre Brault.  However in the case of BLUE BOX the disjointed narrative, staging and dramatic focus don’t come together into a satisfactory whole.

It’s clear that Carmen Aguirre has led an unusual and interesting life. I intend to read her book, “Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter.”  But BLUE BOX doesn’t accomplish what for me is the essence of good theatre – to make the audience feel as well as think.  It shoved me away rather than drawing me in.

On a scale of one to five the Nightswimming/Great Canadian Theatre Company production of BLUE BOX gets two and a half solar panels.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

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