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1997 seems like ages ago, doesn't it? It's the year Titanic sailed into theatres, Ellen DeGeneres came out publicly and the Hale-Bopp comet sped by Earth's outer orbit. Also, this.

1997 was also the year Blue Man Group opened at Chicago's Briar Street Theatre as an off-Loop curiosity (and the year I first saw the show). Quickly, the show gained a tourist following and never looked back -- 16 years later the show is still playing to packed houses, eager to see what these odd, monochromatic men are up to.

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The show received a major update in 2011, pulling in modern references to how we engage as a culture -- a core Blue Man theme. It seems almost impossible, but 1997 was also before the age of Google, Facebook (even MySpace), YouTube, widespread high-speed internet and mp3 players. Even cell phones and texting were novelties.

With all these fancy tools at our disposal, how better off are we?

Here's the irony: while we're connected with each other like never before, we've turned into a generation of people who hide behind our handheld devices rather than engaging with the people around us.

Well, there's no hiding behind your cell phone in this rebooted, booty-shaking production. The Blue Men are still very much in your face -- especially where I was sitting: 6th row on the aisle. I almost got chosen a few times to go up on stage for their now-classic sight gags.

Blue Man Group
In addition to the up-front action, this Blue Man experience, my fifth, was different because I brought along my 18 year-old niece, who is very much a millennial -- always on her phone, always snap chatting, or whatever it is she does, with about 10 different people while, say, walking through the Art Institute.

However, for nearly two whole hours, she sat in her chair, slack-jawed, phone off.

"This is awesome," she proclaimed.

Though, I'm not sure if the subversive themes built into Blue Man of how our society has grown hopelessly disconnected from itself due to rampant technology, really sunk in. But that's OK -- she got to see a real piece of theatre that captured her attention and imagination.

The Blue Men are still going strong.

Blue Man Group is playing at Briar Street Theatre. More info here>

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