It’s winter in Evanston, Illinois, and a woman has gone missing. Her name is Mitzi, and beyond that we know just a scant few details: she works as an Administrator, is unafraid of bumble bees, appreciates expensive red wine, and has a good friend named Louise.
So that’s a start.
Thankfully, we don’t have to solve this mystery alone. Francis O’Brien (John Morogiello), a high-school drama teacher and husband to the aforementioned Mitzi, is on the case.
In Blue Over You, Francis blasts onto the stage signing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” He sports a bath robe and a jeweled pinkie ring, looking anything but a worried husband or an able gumshoe. Add on top of that the fact that it’s 2am, and pretty quickly the evidence starts to pile up that something is amiss.
More on that later.
Blue Over You starts slow, show tunes aside, but the play finds its footing and takes hold of the audience just a few minutes in. Francis proves an eager narrator, coming from “a long line of self-talkers,” he says.
Our hero finds the play’s humor through storytelling and self-deprecation, all of which work from beginning to end. But the best part about his character is the nuance.
Blue Over You
closes July 23, 2017
Yes, Francis is a gentle theater nerd who talks in the 3rd person and describes himself as “a tad bit flamboyant.” Francis isn’t shy about his penchant for wine spritzers and marvels at his wife’s bravery in the face of muggers and insects alike, all the while insisting that there is a “nuanced difference” between a high school drama teacher and a homosexual (his words, not mine – send your angry tweets elsewhere).
But Francis is far from one dimensional. He’s a proud husband to Mitzi, boasting of his “manly responsibilities” around the house and fiercely jealous of the attention his wife gets from “Joey the Janitor.” If you’re at all confused about Francis’s sexuality, he makes it fairly clear that he doesn’t give a damn what you think, thank you very much, so long as you know he loves his wife, because that’s all that matters.
Playwright Dan Noonan deserves praise for some Grade-A character development there.
It’s enjoyable enough listening to Francis tell stories and opine about theater, and if not for the missing person case this play might very well have been called “Come Spend 90 Minutes with My Fun Friend Francis.”
But there IS a missing person case to solve, and the evidence is scant. There’s a map of Phoenix, a missing wig from a production of Theater on the Roof, three casseroles in the freezer (two of which are lasagnas), and $500 lost from Francis and Mitzi’s emergency fund, among others.
Francis sleuths his way across the stage without a lot of high highs or low lows. There are a few costume changes and some (imagined) scene-changes, a whole lot of great stories from Francis and one absolutely perfect conversation with a mannequin. Props to director Stan Levin for that, and for apt use of a miniscule space.
By the time we got to the end I wasn’t surprised by the answer to our mystery. There are only a few plausible scenarios to being with, and the mystery falls away slowly like a thin veil.
That’s when we realize that Blue Over You isn’t about the mystery. It’s about the people, and what the truth means to them when they discover it.
Even a slightly drawn-out ending didn’t bother me. I may have been one step ahead of our hero in solving the puzzle, but I still cared how Francis would respond to it when he caught up. It’s a rock-solid moment in John Morogiello’s performance, and a roundhouse kick to the kidneys for an audience that has been lulled with jokes and show tunes into thinking this was just another one-man comedy.
As of this writing, there are 5 more opportunities to check it out at Pursuit Wine Bar, just steps from Fort Fringe. I suggest that you do. And grab a wine spritzer on your way upstairs.
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