MAILED: Sept. 28, 2000
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's University Theatre production of "The House of Blue Leaves" written by John Guare uses savage humor and pathos to explore society's obsession with celebrity and the ravages of humiliation that people unknowingly inflict on one another.
The play opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, in Kjer Theatre. Additional performances are slated for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13-14 and 17-21 and 1:30 p.m. Oct. 22.
Richard Nimke, assistant professor of music and theatre arts and the play's director, said although the play originally was performed in 1971, it still has a lot to say about contemporary society and deals with issues that are pertinent today.
The play takes place in the span of one day and revolves around the lives of Artie Shaughnessy, a middle-aged zoo keeper who is aspiring to be a songwriter; Artie's wife, Bananas, who recently had a breakdown and is caught between reality and fantasy; Artie's mistress, Bunny, who keeps up to date on all the movie stars; and his son, Ronnie, who is absent without leave from Fort Dix.
By watching the day unfold, the audience is forced to think about society's obsession with celebrity.
"Society is obsessed with trying to know every detail of (celebrities') lives," Nimke said. "People watch news reports to see what famous people are doing and wearing, and then they try to emulate that."
Nimke said at one point during the play, Bananas, in reference to celebrities, says "I knew them better than myself. I knew them better than my family."
"This is a pathetic statement about society," Nimke said.
The other major theme of the play humiliation is addressed through Ronnie's character. On the day the play takes place the pope is visiting New York City. Ronnie comes to New York with intentions of blowing up the pope. Ronnie has been humiliated all his life and he figures this is his way of getting his name in the paper and becoming famous, which Ronnie believes will lead him to gain respect.
Guare wrote, "I guess that's what this play is about more than anything else: humiliation. Everyone in the play is constantly being humiliated by their dreams, their loves, their wants, their best parts."
"Sometimes the play is extremely funny," Nimke said, explaining that the play is a dark comedy. "At other (times) it is extremely serious. The audience will be laughing and then all of a sudden think, 'I shouldn't be laughing at that.' Comedy is used as a corrective in this play.
"The play is not meant to teach as much as it is meant to get people to think and examine," Nimke said, adding that also is an intention of producing this play.
Tickets, available at the University Service Center, (715) 836-3727, are $8 for adults; $6 for those ages 62 and older and 17 and younger; and $5 for students, faculty and staff with a university ID.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Sept. 28, 2000