Blue Man Group has gone on steroids — and the result feels like an assault on the senses.
Twenty years ago, the quirkyperformance-art piece was the darling of the New York underground scene, and it was a charming bit of fun, filling a small off-Broadway theater with off-the-wall antics.
Back then, before YouTube and “Jackass,” three men in blue face makeup scarfing and regurgitating Twinkies and Cap’n Crunch seemed novel, and the nonspeaking characters’ oddball interaction with the audience in such an intimate space evoked a palpable, if unusual, community spirit.
The guys — actors, not the original three blue men who created the show — are back in an updated touring production (part of a growing Blue Man empire including videos and a school) at the Golden Gate Theatre, a substantially larger setting than their original venue.
Snack foods, drumming, splattering paint and vaudeville-inspired audience interaction remain key ingredients of the festivities this time around. But they’re dwarfed by newer elements which make the show big, including ear-splitting music, blinding bright lights cast straight into the eyes of the audience, and huge LED displays. Of course, the screens allow people in the back of the theater to see the action, but they’re also the topic of some not particularly profound bits about the ever-increasing role of technology in daily life. Watching a Blue Man text on a gigantic cell phone onstage is about as interesting as watching a guy on Muni do the same thing.
A sequence in which theatergoers are asked to fist-pump and do other things one would do in an audience at a rock concert captures every annoying aspect, and none of the magic, of a real rock concert.
In one of the more fun bits at Wednesday’s opening, a brave audience volunteer donned a pair of coveralls, allowed himself to be covered in paint, and then transferred the colors to huge canvas, creating a nifty art work.
As in the old days, the show closes with huge bouncing balls batted around by folks in the audience, while a river of white paper streamers flows over the crowd. Twenty years ago, it represented a bonding experience; today, it signaled the time to go home — none too soon.
Where: Golden Gate Theatre,1 Taylor St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; closes June 19
Tickets: $30 to $99
Contact: (888) 746 1799;shnsf.com/shows/bluemangroup