With its patent rejection of language and spirited mockery of pretension, The Blue Man Group is the sort of show that eschews criticism. I use the term criticism in the academic sense, and not the popular— a choice, of course, that The Blue Man Group would further discourage. Nonetheless, I believe the 90$ admission promises a little something more than just popular fun— immensely popular and fun though it may be.
Let’s begin with the spectacle. A full Queen Elizabeth Theatre received The Blue Men the night I attended. Those in the first few rows had been given translucent plastic ponchos to wear over their clothing. The foretold splashing came straight away during the very first scene: paint drumming. Next up was another classic bit in which the first Blue Man spews paint at a canvas to create something signifying, obviously, a work of genius; the second launches marshmallows at the third who catches and stores them in his mouth, never missing a single one. In the end, it’s this third Blue Man, childish and lowbrow, whose mouth produces the true work of artistic interest: a lewd but impressive tower of gooey marshmallow in the mold of a throat. The trio then rejoined to deposit the artifact into the purse of an unsuspecting person in the first row. It reminded me of a David Foster Wallace story wherein the protagonist interviews an enigmatic artist whose medium is his own feces.
There’s something of Warhol in the Blue Men’s work. Laden with insipid glimpses of mass consumption, namely Captain Crunch and Twinkies, the Blue Men seem to walk the fine line between cultural commentary and shameless product placement. Ultimately, though, they slip off into the arms of the ready masses. They are showmen, not shamans.