Onstage Playhouse Debuts World premiere of Blue Period

A Well Written Piece with Aesthetic Details Nicely Directed by James P.Darvas 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Javier Guerrero and Claire Kaplan in Blue Period. Photo by Daren Scott
I love when a couple of theatres coincide in a theme. Towards the end of last year, it was weird British 70s humor. Currently, it is premieres dedicated to the fine arts or well, plastic artists as La Jolla Playhouse is on its last week of the musical piece Lempicka based on the Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka. Onstage Playhouse is presenting Blue Period, a world premiere piece by Charles Borkhuis that touches upon Pablo Picasso at the tender age of 19 and recently moving to Paris with his friend Carles Casagemas.

The cool part of these types of pieces is that it is like a lecture or seminar on historic passages that are not necessarily that well known. The beginning of Picasso's blue period, the short life of Carles Casagemas -which ended abruptly and tragically-, and the paintings that came shortly after. Directed by Onstage's Artistic Director, James P. Darvas, the casting for this show proved to be a cool exercise. You would think that the piece revolves around or is about Picasso but no. It is really like a dive into Casagemas and his relationship with the Malagueño painter, his true feelings for him, and Parisian muse Germaine Florentine. Jose Balistrieri portrays Carles Casagemas and he delivers a charged, potent performance. His most mature, I might venture to add. Claire Kaplan is great as the muse and artist lover Germaine Florentin. I am happy to be seeing more of her in San Diego as she has a lot to give creatively and histrionic-wise. I have said it before, and I will say it again guys, she reminds me so much of Anne Hathaway it is crazy. Anyway, Duane McGregor's set design with brown shades and an old, Parisian feel is the perfect frame for this piece along with Sandra Ruiz's costume design, especially with Claire Kaplan's wardrobe that is flirty, sensual, and colorful. Salomón Maya impresses once again with his video design as paintings are projected onto a canvas that the actors flip both horizontally and vertically throughout the play but it is so clean you cannot tell at all it is a projection. A plus for sure.

Also, paying attention to detail, and Onstage always delivers the hidden gems... around that time when Picasso and Casagemas moved to Paris, they also "hung out" with another painter by the name of Ramón Pichot who ended up marrying Germaine BUT the detail is that, in one of Pichot's paintings of Germaine, she has a heart drawn on her cheekbone. This painting is recreated as part of the opening scene of Blue Period, very well executed and Kaplan has a heart on her cheekbone! love it. 

Javier Guerrero and Jose Balistrieri in Blue Period. Photo Daren Scott

James P. Darvas has an eye for detail, round castings, and good pieces. The play is nicely written and it has aesthetic lines that show Borkhuis's poetry background. Many of those lines are delivered by Herbert Siguenza who plays art patron Manyac. When Manyac sees Picasso's paintings for the first time he describes the technique and style beautifully. Siguenza's deep tone and diction give nice air to the lines.

I think Javier Guerrero as Picasso was more of a compass for his fellow actors and the show. He is good and always does well but here, I would have liked to see more and even though it takes him the first act to kind of warm-up, -at least that is how I felt it in the performance I saw-, to really have a stronger pitch and find his groove by the second act still, I was left wanting more. 

All in all, 'Period is an original different piece worth seeing. It is not mentioned who did the paintings used in the play or they might even be pictures that are painted over... but the nice touch is that they are a semi-replica of Picasso's paintings of Casagemas deceased and recreated with Balistrieri's face/profile which adds a somber, creative and unique touch.

Blue Period is currently playing until August 7th. For ticket prices and performance times please click here.

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