Playwright: Music, lyrics & book by Michael John LaChiusa
At: Circle Theatre, 7300 W. Madison St.
in Forest Park
Phone: (708) 771-0700; $21
Runs through: July 20
Arthur Schnitzler's Reigen (literally, round dance, usually translated as La Ronde) introduces a daisy-chain of philandering men
and women whose wayward affections are revealed in a series of tête-à-têtes: the whore with a soldier, the soldier with a bimbo, the
bimbo with a teenage boy, and so forth. But this exposé of fraternization between social classes, scandalous in belle époque Vienna,
is nowadays—in an age when sleeping 'around' is commonplace—more associated with Public Health studies tracking STDs .
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So without the titillation factor, what else does Michael John LaChiusa's musical adaptation of Schnitzler's Greatest Hit offer us?
Not pictures of a society reveling in license while stifling in hypocrisy—Hello Again encompasses a historical panorama ranging from
1900 to the mid-1980s, a conceit making for much wasted time as we struggle with each scene change to locate ourselves on this
Circle Theatre production's minimalist set. Not complex personalities with whose conflicts we can readily identify—LaChiusa's
personnel are designated simply 'the husband,' 'the actress' etc. with Schnitzler's Poet now a filmmaker and his Little Miss, a gay
hustler whom the Husband meets oh-so-cute that fateful night on the Titanic. Nor can we expect to hum any of the tunes on the way
home—LaChiusa, though he writes in a wide range of tempos, favors a uniformly atonal scale.
This brand of music is extremely difficult to sing, its irregular structure rendering even its final chord melodically unresolved. But
wunderkinder Kevin Bellie and Jon Steinhagan—along with several of the performers that transformed LaChiusa's likewise high-
artifice exercise, The Wild Party, into last season's runaway hit for Circle—pull it off, gamely trudging through their composer's
startling intervals with conviction and aplomb.
Megan Van De Hey even manages to inject some genuine pathos into a lonely housewife's nostalgic memories of What Might
Have Been—no easy task when required by the author to simulate a movie-house blowjob in tango rhythm. And together Joel Sutliffe
and Jon Runnfeldt achieve poignancy as a pair of Hollywood waifs. So if the spectacle of pretty young people stripping down to pretty
underwear is insufficient to keep us amused over 100 minutes, at least we can admire the sweat invested in its execution.