Under the Blue Sky
A poignant, human drama
|Steep Theatre presents|
|Under the Blue Sky|
Review by Katy Walsh
High school is in an education in drama. With so many raging hormones under one roof, it’s an ongoing lesson in Love 101. Does he like like me? Will she go all the way? Is he a virgin? But this time it’s not the kids in the hall. These questions are a test for the teacher.
Steep Theatre presents the Midwest premiere of Under the Blue Sky. Teachers pair up in a three act love story. Helen and Nicholas are friends with limited benefit. Helen wants to move forward…together. Nicholas wants to move. Michelle and Graham aren’t a couple. Their friendship has a warped neediness. And when Michelle wants to make her current fling jealous, she defaults to Graham. Anne and Robert are companions. They lunch and travel together. Their barrier to romance is a 20-year separation. Teachers at school know all the answers. Teachers at home are still trying to figure it out. Under the Blue Sky probes the problems behind the love equation.
2 x 3= sex (+/- love).
It’s an adolescence fantasy come true! Playwright David Eldridge opens the door of the teacher’s lounge to expose the human behind the instructor. Eldridge creates three separate scenarios and six distinct characters. He skillfully weaves the first storyline through the other two acts. Michael Salinas (Nicholas) and Caroline Neff (Helen) have a charged first act. It’s the awkward are-we-friends? Are-we-more? Salinas and Neff organically grapple with each other’s definition of the relationship. A tenderly-sweet Salinas soothes Neff’s emotional outbursts. We never see Salinas and Neff again. We only hear about Nicholas and Helen from the other characters. Elridge’s technique is fascinating. The development of the characters continues without the actors. By the ending, my feelings on the Nicholas and Helen relationship have made a dramatic shift.
Under the direction of Brad Akin, Under the Blue Sky changes like the weather. The second segment starts racy and sexy. Alex Gillmore (Graham) and Julia Siple (Michelle) know how to make an entrance. Their roleplaying ends prematurely. A dissatisfied Siple decides to drink and berate. Siple is deliciously mean-spirited. Her cruelty is so wrong, it’s funny. A vulnerable Gillmore endears and perseveres. Another twist and the games continue. The final story features seasoned teachers. Jim Poole (Robert) and Melissa Riemer (Anne) finish the show with a simple, old-fashion romance. With all the previous tumultuous storms brewing, it’s a wonderfully calm respite. Poole and Riemer are perfectly reserved in intellectualizing their relationship.
Under the Blue Sky is what happens when the chalk dust settles. Steep has a poignant faculty for human drama. Under the Blue Sky captivates with Grade-A performances.
Under the Blue Sky continues through November 19th at Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm. Tickets are $20-$22, and are available by phone (866-811-4111) or online at ovationtix.com. More information at steeptheatre.com. (Running time: One hundred minutes with no intermission)
All photos by Lee Miller
behind the scenes
Brad Akin* (director); Julia Siple* (production manager): Becky Bishop (stage manager); Pete Dully* (lighting); Scott Davis (sets); Emily Tarleton (costumes); Kevin O’Donnell (sound, original music); Sarah Burnham (props); Anita Deely (dialect coach); Julie Allen (tech director); Alyssia Munoz (asst. director), Lee Miller (photos)
*denotes Steep ensemble member
3words: Having been a teacher in love, Jen describes it with ‘desperate, cruel, hopeful.’