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The Blue Martini 2006 Review

Backstage

Tom Penketh · August 18, 2006

The Blue Martini, a new play by Michael Ferrell, is a rare concoction: a work about 20-something relationships that sips more than it swills, with a wit and charm that leave you with a nice buzz for hours afterward.

The setup: 24-year-old Shelly (Candace Thompson) is a Chicago bar critic with a strong taste for martinis and a cynicism about men and relationships. So Shelly’s best friend, Renee (Emily Vitrano), in an attempt to jump-start Shelly’s love life, meets a cute guy and invites him over to Shelly’s place.

On arrival, Jack (Michael Ferrell) mutters drunkenly and passes out on the floor. Shelly quickly realizes that Jack is a bartender at the Blue Martini, a place she panned in her new column — singling him out. Unfortunately, when Jack wakes in the morning, he finds the soon-to-be-published column.

Martini offers a surprisingly sophisticated view of these characters, each of whom struggles with finding love while tossed about in a sea of conflicting emotions. Though it once or twice teeters toward sitcom conventions, the play always seems to dance away unscathed with a witty line, a touching moment, or a finely played performance.

With a perfectly cast troupe of talented performers, much of what works in Martini is the way the ensemble gels under Jim Wren’s taut direction. Vitrano beautifully transitions her acrobatic slapstick into a moment of emotional conflict. Ferrell’s wry delivery mixed with Thompson’s luminescent smile hidden beneath tousled blond hair creates a palpable chemistry between them before they utter a word to each other. And, in supporting roles, Josh Tyson as Renee’s computer-obsessed boyfriend and John Peery as Shelly’s gay roommate who sells sex toys to housewives invest heart in characters that, in the wrong hands, could have become shrill caricatures.

Played out on Mike Klar’s beautifully functional set, The Blue Martini is an enjoyable evening of theatre.