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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Blue Surge

Rebecca Gilman

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Blue Surge

Title: Blue Surge
Author: Rebecca Gilman
Genre: Drama
Written: 2001
Length: 115 pages
Availability: Blue Surge - US
Blue Surge - UK
Blue Surge - Canada
  • Blue Surge was first performed at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago, 9 July 2001, in a production directed by Robert Falls

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Our Assessment:

B : blunt but effective, with some nice touches

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
New York . 6/5/2002 Peter Rainer
The NY Times . 23/4/2002 Ben Brantley
USA Today B+ 23/4/2002 Elysa Gardner
Variety . 23/7/2001 Chris Jones
Wall Street Journal . 31/7/2001 Joel Henning

  From the Reviews:
  • "Blue Surge never cheats and yet manages to surprise as it unfolds with increasing intensity. The climax is suasive, shatteringly beautiful, and absolutely right." - Peter Rainer, New York

  • "Gilman's characters resist simple cliches, and their progress -- or lack of it -- is detailed with compassion and wit." - Elysa Gardner, USA Today

  • "Like Gilman's previous plays, Blue Surge likely will attract the charge that its debates are forced and the immediacy of its language and issues more suited to cable television than a resident theater. Certainly, there are some contrivances of plot and moments when characters lapse into polemics. But Gilman's writing is heartfelt and the narrative crackles along with plenty of surprises." - Chris Jones, Variety

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Curt is a cop in his mid-thirties, thrilled to be on the vice squad but not very good at it. In the first scene of Blue Surge, he is in a so-called massage-parlour, posing as a customer in a sting operation. He's supposed to get the prostitute to offer her illegal services, but neither he nor the nineteen-year-old masseuse-whore, Sandy (who at least has the excuse that she's just been at her job for three months), are very good at what they do, the scene ending with their sad admissions:

SANDY : I don't know what I'm doing.
(Curt smiles sadly, shrugs.)
CURT : It's okay. Neither do I.
       The second scene repeats the sting, a week later, but this time it's Curt's partner, Doug, who has a go at the more experienced professional, Heather. Doug isn't a great vice cop either, and he too manages to blow the sting. The gals get arrested, but are soon released -- but the two cops can't quite get them out of their minds.
       Heather is fired, but hooks up with Doug (and they do make quite the happy-go-lucky couple). Curt is drawn to Sandy, but he tells himself (and her) that it's because he wants to help her (rather than because he wants to get romantically and/or sexually involved). Curt comes from poor circumstances, and didn't go to college, but he's an honest guy, doing the best he can, with a few small dreams. He also has a fiancée, Beth, an artist who comes from a well-to-do family. Beth is clearly slumming it, though it takes a while before Curt is willing to admit it to himself ("you're marrying me because you're still looking or some way to shock your friends", he finally suggests). Curt wants to help Sandy because he thinks she still can be helped: not even twenty, she still has the opportunity to go down another path -- and not wind up like Heather.
       Sandy has had a terrible childhood and unstable family life ("My mom's been married five times," she explain -- "Six if you count Lucy"). She doesn't appear to have any alternatives or opportunities, but Curt tries to help her anyway. And even when he doesn't appear to succeed, and is led to say:
CURT : Well, if I can't help you, maybe you could help me. (Sighs.) There is this one thing my girlfriend won't do.
       One has to hand it to Gilman: one never would have imagined what he asks for.
       Wary Sandy and well-meaning Curt never quite get over the barriers that separate them, but meanwhile both their lives do come crashing down around them. Heather is less than an ideal roommate for Sandy, and then the massage parlour gets raided again. Meanwhile, Beth isn't pleased to come home early one day and find Sandy with her fiancé (but then no one could have believed this relationship was going to work out). Finally, fatally, Curt tries to help Sandy out when he hears the massage parlour is going to be raided -- a terrible career move that he compounds by making some unwise choices.
       The last scene takes place a year later, when the dust has settled and the audience learns what has become of Doug and Heather, Sandy and Curt. There is, apparently, little justice in Gilman's universe (just enough to make things bearable). Kindness doesn't exactly pay -- though she allows for the possibility that, ultimately, things will turn out almost alright (though by then everyone will have been so bruised and battered that it seems like a hollow victory).

       Blue Surge is an effective, affecting play. The drama, especially of these hurt and lonely souls, Curt and Sandy, is solid. Some elements -- the class divide, especially, between Beth and Curt -- are too simply put, but still fairly effective. Curt is a well-drawn character, and Sandy is particularly good (and with the most interesting arc).
       The great weakness of the play is the unbelievable actions of some of the participants. The vice cops in the massage parlour, both in their mid-thirties and presumably trained professionals, do a worse job than horny teenagers would, while the straight as an arrow Curt is undone by an act that is completely out of character. These (and a few other) simplifications undermine what is otherwise a solid piece.

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Blue Surge: Reviews: Rebecca Gilman: Other books by Rebecca Gilman under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See the index of Drama under review

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About the Author:

       American playwright Rebecca Gilman has received numerous awards for her work.

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© 2004-2009 the complete review

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