Blue Window, the 1984 play by Craig Lucas
(Prelude to a Kiss), was recommended to me by a very dear friend of mine who told me that if he got the
opportunity to direct a show again, he would love to direct me in this one. Now, with that kind of compliment, one
tends to wonder about a play, and so I could not resist reading it. There are seven characters in the show, which
takes place in five New York apartments. The key thing about Blue Window is that all the dialogue and
action in the apartments is simultaneous. The characters frequently speak their lines over one another, and
sometimes several characters are speaking at once. This, in and of itself, is quite a challenge. The production
notes state that if the actors speak their lines softly, rather than trying to shout over each other, the dialogue is more
easily heard. The lines are also written in columns when people need to be speaking simultaneously. This can
make the play difficult to read initially, and if I were in it, I would have to go through the script dozens of times before
even the first read-through, in order to get a good handle on who’s speaking when and where and over whom.
The first scene is a rather confused menage of all seven
characters in their respective apartments, preparing for a dinner party about to be given by Libby. There is a
lesbian couple -- Alice, a writer, and Boo, a doctor; there is Tom, an old friend of Libby’s, who is trying to write a
song all throughout the show, which he just can’t get a handle on; Emily, his girlfriend; Norbert, Libby’s skydiving
instructor; Griever, Libby’s friend; and Libby, who breaks a cap trying to open caviar with her teeth and spends the
entire evening with her hand in front of her mouth so no one can see it.
The second scene is the party in Libby’s apartment. While
she’s worrying about the food and whether or not her guests are having a good time, and how bad her missing
cap looks, everyone else is getting drunk and acquainted with each other. It is during this scene that Emily steps
out of the action of the play, and is lit with a pin-spot. She sings a song while the other characters are frozen. This
is the song that Tom has been trying to write, but it doesn’t come together for him until the end of the play. Also in this
scene, Norbert explains what it is like to parachute, and refers to the “blue window” of sky that one sees before
jumping out of a plane.
In the third scene, everyone has returned home, except for
Norbert, who has stayed behind to help Libby clean up. In this final scene, Libby has a very powerful monologue
that explains her background, and a very key aspect of her character. She talks about her husband, Marty, whom
she married seven years ago. They got a big apartment, on the seventh floor of a brand new building. She believed
she was pregnant about three months after they were married. Marty asked her to come out on the terrace, and
she did. She looked up at the sky and leaned back against the rail, but it hadn’t been attached, it was loose. They
both fell backwards, down. They went through an awning, which saved Libby’s life, but she landed on Marty and
killed him. Every bone in her face was broken, and so were all her teeth. She says, “It’s seven years. I’m thirty-three
years old. I can’t have anybody hold me. I can never be held.”
To me, this is one of the most amazing monologues I’ve ever
encountered in dramatic writing. The stage directions call for a flinch, as Norbert moves toward her, and then a
pause after she has finished speaking. But there is no breakdown, no sobbing, no uncontrolled tears. It is more of
a matter-of-fact statement about herself. She landed on her husband and killed him, and because of that traumatic
event, she can not let herself be held. It is hinted at that there is the possibility of a romantic relationship between
Libby and Griever, but it never materializes within the play. Instead, it seems that Norbert, who stays with Libby, may
become the object of her affection, but that too remains unknown and ambiguous. In the final moment of the play,
all four women are speaking simultaneously, expressing their similar desires of floating off, towards something
better, through a blue window, and Griever dances with an imaginary partner in the middle of the three couples.
The friend of mine who recommended this play said that he
could envision me as Emily, or as one of the lesbians, Alice or Boo. Of these three, I am most intrigued by Emily, and
the fact that she sings Tom’s song before he even finishes writing it interests me. It’s really the only look we ever get
at Emily’s character, the rest of the time she doesn’t seem to say an awful lot. In fact, she barely speaks at all during
the party scene, so the little glimpse we get inside her is a very important one.
The character of Libby also fascinates me. We know nothing
of her psyche or her past until almost the very end, when she delivers her speech to Norbert. Until that point, she
seems a bit neurotic, worrying about the party, hiding her broken cap. But the emotions she could evoke with that
one monologue could be amazing. I can’t envision myself playing that part for some years. I’m not yet old enough to
play a thirty three year-old woman at this point, which is most likely why my friend saw me in one of the other female
roles. But I would like to work with Libby’s monologue, and see where it takes me. It could be spoken frenetically, or
softly and slowly, or just as a statement, nothing out of the ordinary. In any case, I think it would be wrong to milk it
for audience emotional reaction. That wouldn’t be true to the character or to the play.
This play isn’t about emotion. I don’t think the audience
leaves the theater after seeing Blue Window sobbing or having profound, existential crises.
But it definitely demands thought, and evokes feeling. Simply reading it a couple of times, it’s difficult to get a real
grasp on, because of the elusiveness of the dialogue. But it clearly presents a challenging, moving story, and makes
for good theatre.