A Bright Blue Break from Studying

Arts contributor Evy Wyman recounts the enthralling confusion she experienced seeing the Blue Man Group live and thriving post-pandemic.

By Evy Wyman, Arts Contributor

When I signed up to see the Blue Man Group’s performance at the Briar Street Theatre on February 16, I had no clue what to expect. I’d seen the famous images of blue men, of course, but knew nothing of what they would be performing. As I told more and more people that I was going, I was mostly met with similar half-knowledge or, in one instance, an ominous smile and the accompanying, “Don’t be late.”

I’m incredibly glad I wasn’t late. The show began with two members of the Blue Man Group spectating their leader bang rhythmically on drums. Just before the audience’s attention could have shifted away from watching the Blue Men observe their leader, the two Blue Men began pouring multicolored paint onto the drums, creating an unexpected spectacle. I was glad I wasn’t late not only because of the noisy, entertaining, and surprising beginning—but also because of what happened when one group did come in late. The music immediately cut off, and a brilliant spotlight shone onto the poor audience members shuffling awkwardly to their seats, with the three Blue Men adding to the ordeal through exaggerated stares.

Courtesy of Kyle Flubacker

That wasn’t the only time the awkwardness of human encounters was pushed to the max throughout the show. On top of impressive percussion, wordless skits, and unmatched ability to catch marshmallows in their mouths, the Blue Man Group also worked hard to bring the audience into the show. They gave emphasized expressions to any unusual audience reaction, sometimes stopping and staring. They brought up individual audience members to play a variety of parts, either joining the Blue Men in drumming or being watched meticulously as they interacted self-consciously with each other. And, in one instance, the Blue Man Group stepped into the crowd, balancing precariously on the armrests of taken seats to connect with the audience. While remaining silent, each Blue Man forced the audience to embrace the awkwardness and every feeling that came with it head-on through theatrical, alien-like eye contact made through the bright blue of their faces. Like in every other part of the show, you could only watch this and feel absurd delight and startled hilarity at the intensity of non-verbal communication. It was impossible to take any part of the show, including your own presence, too seriously.

While the show was enthralling, there were a few moments that snapped me out of the magic of childlike delight. To ensure the show’s focus on human connection and the importance of experience, audience members were asked to keep phones off during the entirety of the performance. This message of living in the moment was underscored, a little oddly, by disconnected clips demonstrating the dangers of social media and technology. While the clips remained in line with the humor and play on expectation that guided the entire show, they didn’t quite manage to flow into the rest of the show and left me with a sense of bafflement rather than the deeper understanding they might have been going for. The clips focused on animated people walking around while typing, distracted from their environment, and ended with the animated phone addicts getting hit by traffic or stolen away by a giant bird. 

Courtesy of Daniel Boczarski

But it was still an experience felt to the max. Intrinsically musical, the performance of the Blue Man Group was highlighted by a brightly painted (though not blue) backing band. Whether the music was the most prominent feature of a skit or a simple background element, it served to match the vibe expressed by the Blue Men performers: apprehension, excitement, curiosity. The night passed in a blur of inspiration to move, to participate, to wonder, or to laugh at what the heck was going on. Alongside every child and grandmother in the theater, I cracked up at the least-expected moments and jumped for a stray marshmallow—or the bouquet after an unlikely wedding. The experience of watching and becoming part of the show—even if it was dancing under the direct commands of a Blue Man holding a bright red baton—was absolutely freeing.

As the stage crew diligently washed away the multicolored neon paint (there was a lot of neon paint), my friend and I giddily walked out of the theater. It really was a wonderful experience and certainly one I encourage checking out with their student rush tickets, which can be found here!

Editor’s note: This article was updated March 28 to include the location and date of the performance reviewed.