Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2548
Scene One: The Girl and The Cab Driver
The first scene of The Blue Room is an encounter between The Girl and The Cab Driver. The Girl is a prostitute, young, amateurish, and new to the work. She is waiting in a park, dressed in a short, black leather skirt, trying to catch the eye of a potential customer when The Cab Driver walks past her, twice. Taking the initiative, The Girl invites The Cab Driver home with her. The savvy driver knows her game and tells her he doesn’t have any money. She persists, telling him she doesn’t care about money, and they end up walking down to the nearby river in order to have sex off the main pathway in the park.
The lights darken, and a projected slide reads ‘‘THREE MINUTES,’’ the time it takes for The Cab Driver to finish and pull his pants back up. When the lights return, the driver brushes himself off, pulls The Girl up off the ground, and heads off to go back to work. In spite of her earlier claim, The Girl asks The Cab Driver for some money. He refuses and leaves, while she promises, ‘‘I’ll be here tomorrow.’’
Scene Two: The Cab Driver and The Au Pair
With the sound of an Elvis Presley ballad echoing at a dance in the outside ballroom, The Cab Driver and The Au Pair duck into a darkened storage closet. The Au Pair, whose name is Marie, is foreign, and her job is caring for a family and their children. She has just met The Cab Driver, who now introduces himself as Fred. He has brought her into the storage room, he says, to escape the dance. His real motive is to seduce the young lady.
Before The Au Pair will agree to have sex with The Cab Driver, she tells him he must reassure her that ‘‘it means something.’’ Parroting her request, Fred tells Marie, ‘‘It means something. I promise.’’ The lights go out and the slide projection reads ‘‘NINE MINUTES.’’ As a dim light slowly reveals the two of them atop some crushed cardboard boxes, The Au Pair asks her Cab Driver what he feels. Fred stammers that he doesn’t know. ‘‘Feel’s a big word,’’ he complains. But the experience seems to have had a greater effect on him than his encounter with The Girl in the park. He admits he feels confused and is in no hurry to leave this girl. Instead, he asks her to stay a bit while he goes to get David Hare them both a beer. He heads off on his mission while The Au Pair sits alone and the lights go out.
Scene Three: The Au Pair and The Student
The third scene takes place in the fancy modern kitchen of the lavish home where The Au Pair works. She is seated at a table in the middle of the room writing a letter to The Cab Driver, who she recently met at the dance, when The Student comes downstairs from his studies for a glass of water. He asks about a phone call he has been expecting, then takes his water back up to his room. A moment later, the phone rings. Apparently it is The Student again, asking for another drink. The Au Pair hangs up the phone, and just as she finishes pouring a fresh glass The Student reappears. It is obvious he has manufactured the need for more water as an excuse to see her again.
This time down The Student wastes no time. He begins flirting with The Au Pair, complementing her shirt and shoes, before kissing her and unbuttoning her clothes. For modesty’s sake, or perhaps to preserve her job, The Au Pair asks The Student to at least close the blinds before they continue, which he does. As he pushes her up onto the table, she warns him they may be interrupted by the door, or by the phone call he is expecting from his friend, but The Student pretends not care. The lights blacken momentarily and a slide projection reads ‘‘FORTY-FIVE SECONDS,’’ before the doorbell begins ringing. The mood is broken. The Student panics. He asks The Au Pair to check the door while he quickly dresses himself. When she returns his manner is changed. He is once again the son of the family in charge and announces he is leaving for the cafe. Instead of kind words or tenderness, he leaves The Au Pair with a directive to tell his friend where he has gone, should he finally call.
Scene Four: The Student and The Married Woman
The ‘‘friend’’ The Student was anticipating in the previous scene was apparently The Married Woman, Emma, who appears in Scene Four. Up in his bedroom, The Student, whose name is now revealed as Anton, has been preparing for her visit. He has assembled a collection of hors d’oeuvres wrapped in an aluminum container and a bottle of cognac. Offstage, the doorbell rings, and The Married Woman is greeted by The Au Pair. When Emma makes it upstairs, she is obviously a public figure the wife of a prominent politician who is trying to keep her tryst with The Student a secret. She has worn a scarf and dark glasses and complains to her soon-to-be lover that she must not be discovered, because the press have no values or respect and would make her life miserable.
To make matters worse, or at least more dangerous, The Married Woman is a friend of The Student’s parents. The two briefly discuss her marital woes (she is unhappy in her husband’s world of deception and lies), and The Student actually admits he is in love with her. Then they fall into bed together. The lights are only out briefly, long enough for a slide projection to read ‘‘0 MINUTES,’’ before the room is bright again and The Student sits on the edge of the bed, frustrated and nervously impotent. While he tries to find excuses for his condition and berates himself, she tells jokes and tries to make light of the situation. Finally, The Married Woman solves the problem. She tells The Student to simply lie very still on the bed. She stands over him and the lights fade to black. The slide projection now reads ‘‘THIRTY-TWO MINUTES’’ and, in the darkness, she murmurs in a satisfied voice, ‘‘Oh my beautiful boy.’’
Quickly, however, The Married Woman realizes she must get back home to her husband. While they both dress they agree they will see each other the next day, in public, at a political rally for her husband, and two days later they will meet again in private. Left alone, The Student sits down, eats a few hors d’oeuvres, and brags to himself, ‘‘I’m fucking a married woman.’’
Scene Five: The Married Woman and The Politician
Back at home, the source of The Married Woman’s unhappiness is revealed. Emma and her husband, Charlie, The Politician, share a single bedroom but sleep in different beds. It is an arrangement The Politician dubs mature, convenient, and wise, since it ensures their marriage will not be based on sex alone, but on friendship and mutual respect for each other’s lives as individuals. The lesson is a hollow one for The Married Woman, who really longs for the passion they shared when they met eight years earlier in Venice.
As the couple talk just before bedtime, The Married Woman asks her husband about his life before her. He admits (though they have had the conversation before) that he was foolish, sleeping with many, many women, at least one of whom was even married. Now, though, he has seen the error of his ways. He claims he is in love with Emma, and she is all he needs. The lights go out, and a slide projection reads ‘‘FIFTEEN MINUTES.’’ When they are finished, The Married Woman tells her husband she longs for the feeling of Venice again. The Politician, ever politic, tells her that is the wonderful thing about marriage; that one day there may be time for Venice again.
Scene Six: The Politician and The Model
Romance and Venice aside, the next time The Politician appears he is sitting on a sofa in a hotel room, contentedly smoking a cigar and watching a seventeen-year-old girl he has just picked up on the street dance to a rock video and eat chocolate ice cream. The Model, Kelly, is no innocent abroad. She admits she has been with men before, though she is insulted when The Politician guesses she has entertained as many as fifty previous lovers. She snorts cocaine and pops pills throughout the scene, and complains about a previous lover who looked a lot like The Politician.
In a seemingly uncharacteristic move, The Politician takes a handful of pills himself. The begin to have sex and the lights fade to black. The projected slide reads ‘‘TWO HOURS TWENTY-EIGHT MINUTES.’’ In the haze following their drug-influenced sexual encounter, The Model and The Politician talk about their next moves and the possible effects of cheating on a marriage. The Politician is enraged at The Model’s suggestion that, since he cheats on his wife, she must be cheating on him, too. He is hypocritical and ironically blind to something his young partner finds very obvious. Finally, The Politician tries to convince The Model to let him find her an apartment of her own, where he can pay her expenses and keep her available for future trysts. Foolishly, he asks her, ‘‘Isn’t that what women want?’’
Scene Seven: The Model and The Playwright
Like The Politician before him, The Playwright apparently found The Model on the street or in a club somewhere and immediately brought her home, under the premise that he will sing a song for her. She initially protests that she will only stay for the song, but once The Playwright sings for her (the composition is ‘‘The Blue Room’’), she is smitten, and stays long enough to be seduced. For his part, The Playwright enjoys that The Model doesn’t recognize him as a celebrity artist, and he uses his deftness with words to confuse and impress her into bed with him. He promises to take her to India ‘‘to the Rajasthan,’’ where they will see the sights and enjoy passionate lovemaking. As in the previous scenes, the lights fade and a slide projection reads ‘‘FORTY-NINE MINUTES.’’
Afterward, still playing the romantic gentleman, The Playwright promises her tickets to a soldout performance of his latest work (which is meaningless to her), and vows to see her again. They leave for a late evening dinner.
Scene Eight: The Playwright and The Actress
The Playwright meets his match in his next assignation. He accompanies The Actress to a country hotel, to get away from the city and the theatre where they both spend their lives. The Actress, a few years older than he and quite a bit more composed, seems able to play the writer like a fiddle. She teases him about his point of pride, his vocabulary, telling the stunned man, ‘‘You do talk more bollocks per square meter than any man I’ve ever met.’’ She even goes so far as to insult his plays. Then, just when The Playwright thinks things are going his way, The Actress tells him she has booked him another room in the hotel and the time has come for goodnight. Nevertheless, they do end up in bed together. The lights go to black and a slide projection reads ‘‘TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES.’’ Humorously, the lights come back up to reveal the two in each other’s arms, then darkness falls again and the slide reads ‘‘TWELVE MINUTES.’’
In the post-coital bliss that follows, The Actress admits to The Playwright, ‘‘You write brilliant plays,’’ and that, even though everyone else in their theatre hates him because he seems conceited, she defends him by saying he has a lot to be conceited about. A backhanded compliment, but he misses the insinuation. Lying in bed together a little while longer, they debate about the sounds of nature outside (Is the chirping they hear created by crickets or frogs?) and The Actress continues her taunts, alternately poking fun at The Playwright and telling him she is in love with him; The Playwright cannot tell if she is serious or only acting.
Scene Nine: The Actress and The Aristocrat
In this scene, Hare’s play starts to look in on itself. The Actress is seen on an imaginary stage, taking a bow after a performance of a play by Schnitzler, the author of Reigen, the work that was the original material for The Blue Room. Apparently, The Actress is starring in the very play Hare’s audience is watching, while at the same time really living the fictional events in her fictional world.
Back in her dressing room after the performance, The Actress is visited by The Aristocrat, a wealthy admirer who has been courting her and has just seen her perform onstage for the first time. Like many of the earlier encounters, theirs begins with some verbal jousting. The Actress insinuates The Aristocrat is here while cheating on another mistress, and the Aristocrat pleads innocence and noble intentions. He even suggests they should delay their sexual gratification until they can get to a proper room with a bed, where the right mood can be established.
Very quickly, however, mood becomes unimportant. The Actress and The Aristocrat couple on the dressing room’s chaise lounge as the lights fade to black. The slide projection this time reads ‘‘ONE HOUR ONE MINUTE.’’ Afterward, The Aristocrat is fully clothed, and picking at leftover Chinese food when he muses on one of the play’s central themes. ‘‘Do you think any of us is ever just one person?’’ he asks his paramour. ‘‘Don’t you think we all change, all the time? With one person we’re one person, and with another we’re another.’’ Even though they both agree their affair is destined to end in misery, The Aristocrat agrees to return to the theatre the next day.
Scene Ten: The Aristocrat and The Girl
A year has passed since the first scene of the play, and the story has come full circle. In a dingy room above a sex shop in the red light district of the city, The Aristocrat has just spent a drunken night with The Girl from scene one. When he awakens, fully clothed in a chair across the room from the sleeping prostitute, he imagines (hopes, actually) that he passed out, inebriated, before they had sex. He gets up, pays her for her time, and kisses her on the eyelids, imagining, romantically, that his kiss is the only physical thing that passed between them. His delusion is shattered, however, when The Girl tells him that they actually did have sex the night before, and he can return anytime he likes, ‘‘Just ask for Irene.’’
Through the room’s curtained window the day starts to appear. Music plays as The Girl gets up to bid her one-night beau goodbye. ‘‘Goodnight,’’ The Aristocrat tells her. ‘‘Good morning,’’ she reminds him.
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