Review: ‘Fleeing Blue’ a fresh and raw take on theater

Esme Banuelos (Left) plays as Rosalinda and Jami Mumma (Right) plays as Nancy in the play "Fleeing Blue" written by Milta Ortiz and directed by Ed Baker.


Violence, cruelty and lost souls haunt the newest play produced by the Wichita State University Theatre program. Milta Ortiz’s “Fleeing Blue” is a short, brutal one-act play that captures the decisions made by a group of people in a time of war. The play, roughly 74 minutes long, moves between the jungle and a café, juxtaposing the civility of coffee against the cacophony of the jungle animals. 

Ortiz’s “Fleeing Blue” was the winning selection for the 37th annual National Playwriting Competition sponsored by the WSU Theatre program.  The playwright is usually brought in for the first performance, but the director announced that Ortiz was busy giving birth in Chicago. Held in the Welsbacher Theatre on 29th & Oliver, the play used the space to its entirety, with audience members on every wall. 

Director Ed Baker began the production by reminding the audience that “Fleeing Blue” is “as fresh as art gets.” The play turns out to be an ambitious mix of cultures, set in an unspecified part of South America. The costumes hint at a time frame of mid-twentieth century, along the lines of Che Guevera in the mountains, yet there are inconsistencies across the board—a pair of sneakers, a T-shirt, modern phrases. 

The rawness of the play works to its advantage and the minor details fade against certain powerful scenes. Lt. Scorn, portrayed by J. Bailey Burcham, carries his scenes with a sinister ease. Young lovers Nancy and Max, played by Jami Mumma and Sean Gestl, may be the protagonists of this harsh tale but their story seems lost against the force of the jungle and its military caretakers. Rosalinda, well acted by Esme Banuelos, tries to keep control of the escalating situation at and around her cafe with intellect and patience.

Ortiz injects the script with layers of magical realism, utilizing the ghost of a deceased character to punctuate her philosophical points. The ghost runs a bit Shakespearean on a few lines, but the depth of the play is reflected in the poeticism Ortiz uses.  “Fleeing Blue” is fresh and raw, its faults as frank as its overly philosophical language. But it redeems itself with brutal, honest moments that challenge the audience’s view on the art of playwriting in the 21st century.

“Fleeing Blue” has performances Nov. 6-10 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 10 and 11 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $6 for students and $10 for general admission. Military, faculty and seniors can purchase tickets for $8.