Review: Blue Box – Magnetic North Theatre Festival



Blue Box is not so much a theatrical tour-de-force as a storytelling tour-de-force. Save for a brief salsa dance interlude Vancouver’s Carmen Aguirre spends a full 90 minutes on stage talking to the audience sharing her story.

And what a story it is. As a young woman Aguirre was a resistance fighter in Chile against the Pinochet regime. She talks about her experiences living under constant terror being followed anticipating imminent torture and death but she also spends much of the play recounting her passion for a drop-dead gorgeous “Chicano” television star she calls “Vision Man.”

The moniker comes her grandmother’s ghost who sent Aguirre a vision of this guy when she was in the process of overcoming her second divorce.

The truth is save for being handsome “Vision Man” is a full-on self-centred loser. And Aguirre knows it. So she spends much of the play trying to figure out — and justify — why she can’t let him out of her life and even proclaims her love for him.

In the end she concludes that her role of always giving — and his of always taking — is the definition of unconditional love.

And that’s the same kind of love she had for the revolution that she and her fellow resistance fighters were trying to start in Chile. As with “Vision Man” she gave up everything — including a normal marriage — this time for the cause of her country.

Though that cause eventually fizzled out and left her in the cold trying to put the pieces of her life back together.

As an audience member you have to pay close attention to Aguirre’s story because she moves between the present and the past her revolutionary experiences and her time with “Vision Man” in random order. To be frank I think there’s a little too much changing direction in her story as no sooner does she get going with one thread then she picks up another one. And some of those threads get dropped along the way and never get retrieved again leaving me with plenty of unanswered questions as I left the theatre.

While I enjoyed her tale very much I would have enjoyed Blue Box even more had she spent more time on her days as a resistance fighter and a little less time on “Vision Man.”

Aguirre has experiences in her life that most of us thankfully will never have to endure. She could be an audience’s window into that world of a resistance fighter and that’s what I wanted to hear more of.

There are some humourous moments in the show as when she refers to Nordic countries — like Canada — as a place where a woman’s “cunt” can grow cobwebs. (Hence the name “Blue Box” or “Blue Cunt” as the play was originally titled…)

And her sharing the intimate details of what it’s like to work as a phone-sex “performer” — a job which includes hours of sucking on a soother into the receiver — was enlightening.

Which brings me to another point….

I’m not prudish but please if you can’t use the “f” word in a natural way then don’t use it. I don’t know how Aguirre speaks in “real life” but whenever “fuck” or “fucking” came up on stage it sounded like she had parachuted the word in for effect. It didn’t come across as natural at all which is a pet peeve of mine. Carmen you have great stage presence and your story is strong enough to stand on its own that you don’t need the swearing to make it work.

At the end of the day however Blue Box is an interesting adult show though it could have been even more enlightening had Aguirre spent less time lusting and more time reflecting on being a revolutionary.