Daryl Churchill is a British playwright of stature whose bugbear has increasingly become anything resembling realism. Her numerous plays have often made use of this mode, but only as a springboard or a whipping boy. Her latest is Blue Heart, a traveling Out of Joint company production now at BAM. It consists of two one-acters, Heart’s Desire and Blue Kettle, whose aim, respectively, is to demolish stage action and stage speech.
In Heart’s Desire, a kitchen-sink family potboiler about preparing lunch for a daughter returning from Australia for a visit, the action is deconstructed by replaying the same scene, or fraction of a scene, over and over, with tiny incremental differences and at differing speeds. Eventually, greater, surreal departures irrupt, injecting militant absurdity into cozy loopiness. There are a few reverberant coups de théâtre, but we get the point, such as it is, quickly, and are kept awake only by the hope of an ending.
In Blue Kettle, we get a young con man and his convalescent girlfriend (pajamas become her). He passes himself off as the son of several elderly women who once offered up baby boys for adoption, while also maintaining a filial nexus with his foster mother. But plot is immaterial; what counts is that the words blue and kettle parasitically displace all the other words in the dialogue. Whereupon they themselves decompose, first into their syllables, then into their blithering phonemes. The actors, like their director, Max Stafford-Clark, do everything possible for these exercises in authorial despair; but when not only time but also place, dialogue, and tempers are out of joint, lethal lethargy engulfs us.