On the surface, “Blue Over You” is about a high-school drama teacher who is trying to find his wife who’s gone missing.
Beneath the surface, Dan Noonan’s play, which Best Medicine Rep Theatre is presenting, is the theme of reality and what people think it is.
The fact that “Blue Over You” takes its title from the song Barbra Streisand (as Fanny Brice) sings in the movie version of “Funny Girl” is appropriate. The protagonist Francis periodically breaks into snippets of song from musicals.
These are familiar rather than obscure show tunes, Noonan said.
Since this is a one-person play, audiences will find themselves “intimately involved,” said Best Medicine Rep’s artistic director, John Morogiello, who portrays Francis.
“It’s incredible, wonderful play” he said. “I laughed, and I cried. And Francis is fun. He’s completely off the wall.”
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The playwright is careful not to reveal too much. He will say that as the play develops, Francis “starts to delude himself into a story that makes him feel better. He starts to connect dots to a story which, while untrue, comforts him.”
Slowly, the audience will begin to suspect he’s an erratic character. In the third scene, Francis is literally in a psych ward.
“When I pitch the play to theaters, I tell them it’s about a situation that affects millions of Americans every year – mental health issues, that is.”
Morogiello said he had never seen a one-person mystery before, and indeed, neither had Noonan. “Which is why I decided to write one,” the playwright said.
Moreover, he believes that having a one-character show gives that character “an enormous amount of power, which can be an incredibly powerful dramatic tool if you use it well, the audience is literally in the palm of this character’s hand. It’s a lot of fun to write.”
Much as he loves the play, Morogiello admitted it’s “terrifying” to be alone on stage. “It’s tough to memorize,” when there’s no one with whom to share the dialogue.
Francis has no fear of being onstage. He describes himself as coming from “a long line of self-talkers.”
“Blue Over You” debuted locally at the 2017 Capital Fringe Festival, in a small space – with the set limited to a table, two stools, and a box.
Remounting it in Best Medicine Rep’s home venue allows some expansion.
Stan Levin, who is directing, as he did during the Fringe Festival, shares Morogiello’s enthusiasm.
“It’s one of my favorite plays,” Levin said. “Noonan is just brilliant.”
“It’s very rare to find a play like this,” he added. “The audience doesn’t know where the journey is going. The play is funny sad, and intriguing and engages the heart and mind.”
One might assume the director of a one-person play has an easier job than his/her counterpart staging a multi-character vehicle, because so much rests on the actor.
Not true, Levin said. In some ways, he added, the actor in a one-person play is more reliant on the director than otherwise: the director is the only one who can give feedback, positive or negative.
“The experience of one-on-one is intimate and intense,” the director explained. “I said to John that we’re starting the process as friends, and I hope we end up that way.”
Morogiello seems to have no doubts.
“Stan is fantastic,” he said. “He works well with the script and very well with actors. He asks questions about what drives the character(s), and is a joy to work with.”
“Blue over You” runs June 15-17 only. Theater space is located on the second floor of the Lakeforest Mall at 701 Russell Avenue, in Gaithersburg. Easiest access is via the Green Flower entrance. For more information, visit www.bestmedicinerep.org.