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Seven singles in search of understanding. `Blue Window' looks behind breezy party talk to find hidden yearnings

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American Playhouse: `Blue Window' PBS, Monday, 9-10:30 p.m., check local listings. Play by Craig Lucas. Like a delicate musical composition, this fragile but telling play weaves the strands of casual party talk into compassionate glimpses of seven people at a party. They are single, emotionally isolated, and reaching out for understanding. Before the evening is out, the production has not only captured the rhythm of their speech, but the rhythm of their lives.

``Blue Window'' - which had a seven-month Off Broadway run and has played in regional theaters - is pure New York. The cocktail party patter is jaunty, slightly fatalistic, with a feeling of guests being comrades in arms against the city and against an impersonalized life. But the way these people come together at Libby's apartment - and almost relate - rings with the more widely familiar sound of detached lives and a quest for meaning. Its a marvelous capturing of a bull session: everyone breaking off ``weighty'' talk with nervous quips to make sure no one thinks he's taking himself too seriously.

The production's impact is due in large part to the happy combination of Norman Ren'e's brilliant direction and a wonderfully skilled cast whose low-key style is just right. Less confident and expert hands would have been tempted to pep up the talky script with ``striking'' readings. By avoiding such intrusiveness, the company is much more penetrating in its characterizations. Randy Danson makes Libby a sensitive portrait of a wounded, insecure woman for whom the party is a harrowing test. By the time Libby loses a tooth, it's a small identity crisis. And when she recounts - with frightening tranquillity - the tragedy from her past that explains her present, it's as if she's telling of a sick relative.


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