The Transport Group’s revival of the sexually charged musical Hello Again by Michael John LaChiusa has been extended through Sunday, April 10. Like its inspiration La Ronde, the intimate piece follows a chain of lovers across multiple partners (and time periods), illuminating the seemingly insurmountable distance between people sharing the most intimate of acts. That awkwardness and intimacy is highlighted in this production by director Jack Cummings III’s choice to stage the piece environmentally; the audience sits as if at a supper club and the action of the play takes place around and on their tables. Yes, where your entrée should be, there are actors singing and simulating sex acts as if they were a particularly frisky rump roast.
With this in mind, there are two groups that will particularly enjoy the show: Music Theater Completists and Voyeurs/Tighty-Whitey Fetishists. Perhaps I should explain with the help of an illustrative image:
1. Music Theater Completists: This is a rare chance to see a beautifully sung production of one of the Post-Sondheim musicals that debuted in the 1990’s. From Adam Guettel to Ricky Ian Gordon, young composers built upon Sondheim’s intellectualism and adventurousness but added a layer of modernist art song (and some might say neglected some of his audience-engaging instincts.) LaChiusa’s work is always interesting, challenging and rigorously thought out, perhaps nowhere more so than in this musical and its risky attempt to understand people through their sexual encounters. I particularly loved Mary-Mitchell Campbell’s sweeping orchestrations (in a difficult space) and stellar performances from Elizabeth Stanley and Rachel Bay Jones.
2. Voyeurs and Tighty-Whitey Fetishists: I know this is a serious piece and I in no way wish to diminish the committed work of the performers, but when the lovely Max Von Essen is humping someone bare-bummed five feet from your face, it’s hard not to be a bit embarrassed and just a tad distracted from what’s being sung. This push-pull (so to speak) between enjoyment and discomfort is probably exactly what the director was going for and I can respect that. I also, however, can see myself turning to one of my fellow “diners” and whispering, “I’ll have what she’s having.”