Embarking on Outlandish Escapades, Blue Men Keep Audiences Guessing

For nearly 10 years, three men with glossy, cobalt-blue heads have enthralled and delighted audiences in a stage production called "Blue Man Group." Any comparison with what the Blue Men do and your traditional proscenium theater offering happily doesn't fit here.

First and still in New York, where the Blue Men won a Drama Desk Award and a Best Off-Broadway Show award, and now in productions in Boston and Chicago, the Blue Men (who never say a word) present 90 minutes of controlled, jaw-dropping mayhem.

The performance appears to be an intellectual puzzle, but isn't, and just when you might conclude the Blue Men are grown men playing in a nursery of symbols, they aren't.

Without a traditional story line, they crunch cereal to make music, catch hunks of thrown bananas in their mouths, drum amazingly on plastic pipes, eat Twinkies in a kind of eating ballet, wear electronic signs with moving letters, and pound drums that splatter with paint.

Along the way, they satirize modern art, celebrate and create community, and pluck people out of the audience to join in on the fun. Some of the performance is televised while the audience sees itself being televised.

Upon leaving a performance in Boston recently, businessman Scott Condino said, "Unbelievable. I don't know what else to say. Unbelievable."

What leaves most people awed and pleased is the juxtaposition of known familiar objects becoming instruments of entertainment, and the menacing style of three men, always unsmiling, who turn the tables and create a funny, loud, enchanting world that is unbelievable, yet believable because you just saw it.

"Our hope in some sort of subliminal way," says Chris Wink, one of the three creators of "Blue Man Group," "is that the show has a liberating quality to shake people out of the purely intellectual as a strategy for life and get them into the visceral a little bit through the beat of the music. It's OK to take off your cultural mask and have your intellect tickled."

The heart of the performance is the three Blue Men, all deft and athletic, and always aware of the audience. They move cautiously within the various physical skits but explode with energy when they drum.

Wink says the three have no ego within the spectacle created.

"From an acting point of view, we are trying to have the character be above or below ego," he says. "Above the ego he has a mission, almost on the heroic side, and at the same time he is sort of a child, a kind of Forrest Gump innocent."

Part of the continuing attraction of "Blue Man Group" could be the group's decision, despite its popularity, not to use commercialism to extend its reach. There are no CDs, videos, films, or T-shirts of "Blue Man Group."

"We resisted the temptation to move to larger theater," says Wink, "and want to stay at the village level of things, around 300 seats. We like the idea of someone saying, 'Have you heard of "Blue Man Group"? No? Let me take you down to see it.' "

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