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Flash Review, 9-10: Happy Hour and Blue
Getting Wet with Clare Byrne

By Catey Ott
Copyright 2002 Catey Ott

NEW YORK -- What better to do on a late Friday afternoon than have a shot of Clare Byrne? The closing matinee of "Wet Blue and Friends" played on August 23 at University Settlement as part of the NY Fringe Festival 2002. The venue was filled with a warm and engaged audience of about 35. The stage contained a corner back-drop of hanging dresses, and a floor full of inner-tubes, three lawn chairs, and, eventually, an inflatable swimming pool.

In this imaginary world lives Wet Blue -- gender-less, sweet, tender, vulnerable and lonely. This creature (played by Byrne) shares a wide emotional spectrum with facial expression, both slow and quick gesture, and an easy flow of movement. Wet Blue captures the hearts of the audience immediately, so the rest of the journey is a pleasure to take in.

Byrne's choreography is successful in covering space with a grounded swingy style that holds strong technical dance vocabulary and quirky time-suspended gesture. Her ability to ease from moment to moment of such different quality is really captivating. Her whole essence takes on the personality of this imaginary creature as she floats on the journey of life.

The entire music score consists of Aretha Franklin songs from the "Jazz to Soul" album. It is not easy to create a story line on top of music loaded with passion and lyrics. However, Byrne successfully presents a fantasy world that glides upon, within and against the songs in a harmonious way. The lyrics actually compliment the story without overpowering it.

Wet Blue is accompanied by three "friends," wonderfully and energetically danced by Donna Bouthillier, Sarah Carlson, and Theresa Palazzo. These do-bob girls swirl their hips and tease with smart feet while charming the audience with wide inviting eyes. Byrne costumes these three in garb that reflects the mood of Wet Blue: the sad state shows in blue costumes, and the distressed state in dirty and ripped dresses. When the girls show up sassy at the end, they support Wet Blue's growing confidence.

A fun cameo appearance is made by Nicholas Leichter, who enters to splash Wet Blue with a glass of water. Leichter then joins the gang for a boogie dance. What a treat!

Wet Blue's counter-part and love interest is a janitor-type man, danced by Rubin Ortiz. He is sweet and warm to Wet Blue yet has little emotional investment in her. They have near encounters of dance and romance, yet at the end of the day, Wet Blue is still alone. The show closes with Byrne left in an inner tube, floating mid-stage in the shadows.

Clare Byrne has successfully created a fantasy that the audience feels and knows, without drama, lecture, or angst. She brings out the Wet Blue in all of us, and we are left feeling satisfied with being just ourselves.

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