BLUE SURGE, Goodman Theatre. It's time for playwright Rebecca Gilman to take a long, hard look at her relationship with the Goodman. While any writer would jump at the chance to see her work produced by such a high-profile institution, Gilman's three-year stint there seems to have drained all her talent.
Her 1999 Goodman debut Spinning Into Butter, last year's Boy Gets Girl, and her current Blue Surge demonstrate that her political scope has narrowed, her sense of theater has atrophied, and her once bold choices have softened to mush. Blue Surge tells the story of two vice-squad policemen who get involved with two prostitutes, but it seems Gilman's knowledge of cops and hookers comes straight from Barney Miller. The play's secondary couple--the rowdy, cartoonish Heather and Doug--have all the depth and credibility of wacky sitcom neighbors. And the leading couple, troubled but good-hearted Sandy and Curt, are as generic as their "fallen woman rescued by noble swain" story.
Having lost the ability to distinguish between conversation and dialogue, Gilman pens bloated, structureless scenes, often leaving her characters to simply declare personal crises that might have rung true if they'd been dramatized. Worst of all, she tries to pass off two hours of second-rate dilemmas as a critique of the American class system, using a cop as a beleaguered representative of "the poor." It would be laughable if it weren't so insulting.