Home > Anti-Semitism, Austria, Bulgaria, Cynthia Citron, Italy, United Kingdom > So who knew sex could be so boring?

So who knew sex could be so boring?

By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

LOS ANGELES – Who knew sex could be so tedious?  In David Hare’s The Blue Room  11 acts of intercourse are conducted without heat, or charm, or intimacy, or humor, or foreplay. The acotrs climb all over each other into a black out, and from there, it’s just “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am” and “Where are my shoes?” 

Moreover, if a cardinal rule of acting is “Never let them see you acting,” Christian S. Anderson and Christina Dow apparently never got the memo.  They are so busy “acting” in their own individual roles that they might easily be in two different plays.  There appears to be no physical or emotional connection between them. 

It has to be the acting and the direction (by Elina de Santos), because the play itself, in more able hands, might well be an engaging exploration of desire and passion—and the lack thereof.  The playwright, Sir David Hare (he was knighted in 1998, the same year The Blue Room was first produced), has certainly won enough major awards (the Olivier, BAFTA, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, London Theater Critics’ Award, Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear) to qualify as one of Britain’s more prolific and respected theater and film auteurs. 

Hare early in his career became resident dramatist at the Royal Court Theatre and the Nottingham Playhouse and later became the associate director at the prestigious National Theatre.  He is also the founder of Greenpoint Films, for which he has written many screenplays. 

The Blue Room was commissioned by British director Sam Mendes as an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s play from 1900 that examined the mores and decadence of Viennese society and the alarming spread of syphilis throughout all the classes of that society.  Considered to be too sexually explicit to be performed, the play (“Der Reigen”) was only meant to be read and performed privately by Schnitzler’s friends.  Its first public performance in 1921 was closed down by the Viennese police and Schnitzler was subsequently prosecuted for obscenity.  The play also unleashed a wave of antisemitism toward its Jewish playwright.  In 1950, however, Max Ophuls turned it into the highly successful movie “La Ronde.”  Different times, different attitudes. 

Hare’s version of this durable play reduced the 10 characters to two—a challenging feat for its actors—and starred Nicole Kidman and Iain Glen.  But even though it had been a hit in London (influenced, perhaps, by a glimpse of Kidman’s dimly lit tush) it received mixed reviews in New York. 

In Elina de Santos’ version, set presumably in New York, judging by the prostitute Irene’s accent in the opening round, each encounter is followed by an on-screen sign reckoning how long the act took.  The times vary from 45 seconds to two hours and 28 minutes.  (And the signs misspell 40 as f-o-u-r-t-y—twice!—and 20 as t-w-n-e-t-y.) 

Meanwhile, the accents switch from New Yorkese to, inexplicably, bad British and, at one point, some sort of garbled Bulgarian (Italian?).  In one particularly annoying scene, Anderson, playing a British politician, keeps enunciating “that is” and “it is” rather than “that’s” and “it’s” which prompts Dow, in a totally different context, to admonish him by saying “You do talk like a prick!” 

And so it goes.  If the actors are to be commended for anything, it’s for the speed with which they make their many costume changes.
Anderson spends much of his time onstage getting in and out of his pants, but stripping down to his skivvies doesn’t loosen him up much; he is pretty wooden throughout (no pun intended). 

Adam Flemming provides a set consisting of screens that project multi-colored abstract designs while the furniture is being rearranged, and Arthur Loves Plastic provides original music interspersed with sexual moaning in the background. 

If you’re still with me, here’s a piece of free advice: go to Netflix and order any of the many DVDs of “La Ronde.”  See it at home.  The popcorn is cheaper! 

The Blue Room will continue as a Guest Production presented by SOLOCAT at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd., in West Los Angeles, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 through May 2nd.  Call (310) 477-2055 for tickets.

Citron is a theatre reviewer and Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World 

  1. Dana
    March 27, 2010 at 7:14 am

    I disagree; although not perfect there were certainly some compelling moments in the performance that I saw.

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