There’s no sign of Tobias from Arrested Development at Off Broadway’s Astor Place Theatre, home to Blue Man Group for the last two decades. Though the show is across the street from the Public Theater and blocks from the East Village, the production has long since lost any sense of hipness. (The proliferation of families and foreign tourists underscore this point.)
But there’s still plenty of fun to be found in this production, a kind of avant garden of eden featuring three wordless and innocent Smurf-colored performers with some unusual skill sets: percussion, slapstick, and catching objects in their mouths. In recent years, there have been updates to the roughly 90-minute show, including the use of three giant-screened smartphones (dubbed Gi-Pads) that descend from the ceiling and provide video clips as well as often witty textual commentary (”We want to do for reading what texting has done for driving”).
But the majority of the production should seem familiar even to first-timers: a series of short skits that highlight colorful visuals, time-honored theatrical sleight-of-hand, and gentle comedy that plays up the Blue Men’s outsider status in a modern Internet-burdened culture. All of this is set to a vaguely house-like soundtrack, backed by a small ensemble wearing fluorescent face paint; when the Blue Men take their mallets to an onstage organ made up of giant plastic tubes, though, they crank out renditions of everything from classic rock to Beethoven’s ”Für Elise” to Lady Gaga’s ”Bad Romance.”
Blue Man Group is not an edgy production, which makes it a good fit for family audiences. While the first five rows are still outfitted with clear plastic ponchos, projectile grossness is surprisingly minimal. Even the stabs at audience participation seem more easy-going and routine than provocative or confrontational. Still, the show exudes a childish sense of play, a delight in splattered paint and gooey things that can be hard to resist. B
(Tickets: Blueman.com/tickets or 800-BLUEMAN)