Bob Goepfert Reviews Capital Rep's Production Of "The Blue-Sky Boys"
Your enjoyment of “The Blue-Sky Boys,” playing at Capital Repertory Theatre through April 3, will depend on your ability to suspend disbelief.
Suspension of disbelief is a term credited to 19th century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who claimed it is a trait necessary to be able to accept work that strains plausibility. He felt for that to happen the material must have “human interest and a semblance of truth.”
“The Blue-Sky Boys” fits this definition in all ways. Because the play uses a mere three men as a composite for thousands and thousands of people who worked on the project that accomplished the impossible, it strains credibility. However, it does make it easier for the play to have “human interest.”
As for semblance of truth, the fact is - we did put two men on the moon in 1969 and brought them home again.
Once you get past the play’s conceit, you can appreciate its premise that claims the Apollo mission succeeded because unconventional people found new ways to solve seemingly unsurmountable challenges.
Even if you never suspend your disbelief, there is a lot of theater magic taking place on the stage of Capital Rep. The young actors playing the engineers excellent in creating characters that are eccentric but dedicated to their task. The three actors playing the numerous apperitions are also goo and the set would be perfect for any group of slightly mad scientists.
Most of all, director Gordon Greenberg creates many moments of beauty and charm that supports the aura of magical-realism that exists within the work. This is especially true in the second act of the two-hour work. Greenberg provides a series of visuals at the conclusion of the play that are touching and inspiring. His dance of celebration as the mission succeeds is joyous and filled with camaraderie. Throughout he nurses a lot of humor from the material without diminishing the seriousness of the undertaking.
But, sad to say, the play is inconsistent and the first act is hindered as it offers a lot of information that, though necessary, seems like overload and extends the time it takes to relate to the characters.
But there are positives as well. One of the particularly charming things about the play’s premise is that it doesn’t discard old knowledge. “Blue-Sky Boys” stresses that new accomplishment comes through innovation, which is expanding old ideas by adding to them with modern advances. The sources of old knowledge can include science, literature, myth, and even comic book fiction.
Indeed, the “Blue-Sky” in the title refers to the men going into a meditative state to summon people like the god Apollo, Galileo, and Buck Rogers, to name only a few of the abstractions who appear to offer advice, knowledge and inspiration to the three engineers.
Oddly it is not the appearance of these characters that creates the challenge of overcoming disbelief. The greatest hurdle is because the play focuses on the three eccentrics, it appears that the design of the modules, the time-table of the flights, the choice of who will man the crafts and just about everything else was done by a small unsupervised and undisciplined trio.
Even if you accept the men as representative figures you have another issue to overcome. Because we know the moon landing was successful, the conflict needed to make the evening dramatic has to come from a situation between the characters. This doesn’t happen.
The problem is with the character Howard Haggerty, who is placed in charge of the project as the president’s representative. As played by Joseph Kolinski, he is rigid man determined to bring order to the creative process. The character is important as his conversion is vital for the audience to understand the need for cooperation and the use collective knowledge is a vital element for the success of any project.
Kolinski plays him as an angry narrow-minded individual who thinks shouting is a sign of authority. This choice makes the man seem one-dimensional and deprives the play of a convert.
“Blue-Sky Boys” is a far from a perfect night of theater, but it has its charms. It makes you laugh, think and reflect. And, as the play emphasizes, perfection isn’t always the best measure of success.
“The Blue-Sky Boys” at Capital Repertory Theatre. Throough April 3. Tickets and information 518-445-SHOW, or capitalrep.org
Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.