The House of Blue Leaves was first performed off-Broadway in 1971, but the managing artistic director for First Presbyterian Theater says the play’s themes are just as relevant today as they were more than 40 years ago.
It’s about our obsession with fame. It’s even truer today, Thom Hofrichter says. We have this whole industry based on fame.
Starting this weekend, First Presbyterian Theater will perform The House of Blue Leaves, which explores the tragic, yet comedic, conditions of a zookeeper who is desperate for fame.
The play centers on Artie Shaughnessy living in 1965 Sunnyside, Queens, on the day the pope visits New York. Desperate for a blessing, Artie dreams of being a famous songwriter and having a better life. In reality, Artie has a schizophrenic wife named Bananas, a plotting son AWOL from the military and an ambitious mistress ready for the pair to escape to Hollywood.
Famous film director Bill Einhorn, a childhood friend of Artie, may be the zookeeper’s ticket out. That is, if Artie can send his wife to a rest home he calls the house of blue leaves. Bananas calls it the loony bin.
Blue Leaves director Craig Humphrey says one of his tasks is keeping the comedic and tragic elements balanced.
It’s not really as much of a farce as it is a comedy that turns really dark, he says.
Humphrey has been familiar with the play since working in a production of the show in 1982. He suggested the play to Hofrichter when they were talking about the possibility of Humphrey directing a show this season.
Hofrichter says the play has been on his list of possible shows for 15 years. But preparing the set required for the play seemed too much for previous seasons.
House of Blue Leaves’ is a big, realistic set. Whenever you have realistic set, it takes a lot of effort, Hofrichter says.
With fewer tedious sets in other productions this season, Hofrichter and Humphrey agreed The House of Blue Leaves would be a fitting production.
What makes the show important is that it’s really timely, Humphrey says. The show addresses how we lose sight of reality in our pursuit of happiness. It shows how dreams become desperate.
Hofrichter hopes audiences can walk away happy with their present life.
We spend most of our energy living this parallel life instead living the life in front of you, he says.