A MAN WALKS INTO A BAR by Rachel Blair (Circle Circle/Next Stage). At the Factory Studio. Jan 7 at 4:45 pm, Jan 9 at 6 pm, Jan 10 at 7:45 pm, Jan 12 at 8:45 pm, Jan 14 at 7:30 pm, Jan 15 at 7 pm, Jan 16 at 2:15 pm, Jan 17 at 4:30 pm. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Don’t be fooled by that title. Rachel Blair’s A Man Walks Into A Bar might begin with the telling of a joke, but there’s nothing funny about where it ends up.
At the top of the show, Blair and Blue Bigwood-Mallin bound out onto the stage. She begins telling us a joke, but she’s continually interrupted by Bigwood-Mallin, who prods her for more details. What’s this “man” like? Average? What is “average”? What kind of bar is it?
Soon the two are reenacting the joke, with Blair playing a server to Bigwood-Mallin’s man. He’s come in during her shift, and the two flirt as he decides what to drink and she tells him about her other customers – oops, “guests” is the preferred industry term.
There’s lots of charm in this early scene, especially when she rattles off a list of beers on tap and he modestly says he knows nothing about whiskey. But soon the scenario gets darker as the power dynamics shift.
Blair’s script is richly suggestive, and director David Matheson and the two actors make every look and line reading take on weight. Blair’s server is especially good at saying one thing when she means another.
The play ends abruptly, but not before the two explore the limits of playful banter, sexual politics and dangerous abuse.