BWW Review: Bridge Rep's HELLO AGAIN Seduces

Hello Again

Book, Lyrics, and Music by Michael John LaChiusa, Directed by Michael Bello, Musical Direction by Mindy Cimini, Choreography by Stephen Ursprung; Scenic Design, Anne Sherer; Costume Design, Kathleen Doyle; Lighting Design, Chris Bocchiaro; Properties Master, John Tracey; Production Stage Manager, Cassie M. Seinuk

CAST & BAND: Jared Dixon (The Husband, The Senator), Lauren Eicher (The Whore), Sean Patrick Gibbons (The Soldier, The Writer), Andrew Spatafora (The College Boy, The Young Thing), Sarah Talbot (The Young Wife), Aubin Wise (The Nurse, The Actress), Colin Fleming (Percussion), Thomas Carroll (Reeds)

Performances through March 29 by Bridge Repertory Theater of Boston at Hall A in the Calderwood Pavilion at Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA; Box Office 617-933-8600 or www.bostontheatrescene Approximate Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
This show contains nudity and sexual content, and is recommended for adult audiences.

In a very short period of time, Bridge Repertory Theater of Boston has established itself as a company that will not be boxed in, no matter how small the venue it chooses to stage its productions. As in Harold Pinter's The Lover, their inaugural play last March, small translates to intimate in their gifted hands with their first musical, Hello Again by Michael John LaChiusa. Emerson College graduate Michael Bello returns from New York to direct an ensemble of six exciting young actors and actresses in this immersive, cabaret-style experience.

Influenced by German playwright Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 play La Ronde, LaChiusa introduces ten characters who each appear twice in different pairings for an intimate encounter, with each set in a distinct decade of the twentieth century. Although beginning in 1900 and concluding in the 1980s, the scenes are not in chronological order, nor are the characters the same person in both scenes. There is certainly a spiritual or emotional connection between them, but it would be impossible, for example, for the 1910s husband to be one and the same as the 1950s husband. The costumes remain the same, but the music changes to reflect the era and the actors morph into someone almost completely different.

Jared Dixon, Lauren Eicher, Sean Patrick Gibbons, Andrew Spatafora, Sarah Talbot, and Aubin Wise give outstanding performances across the board, successfully creating their characters within seconds of taking center stage. Dixon and Wise have both been making names for themselves on the Boston theater scene recently. He has a simmering presence as the repressed husband and the remorseful senator, while she smolders and titillates as the nurse and breaks our hearts as the actress. Wise also has one of the most amazing voices in town with a tremendous vocal range, and she is the first among equals in this ensemble. Spatafora and Talbot make beautiful music together ("Story of My Life") as The College Boy and The Young Wife, while Talbot's solo turn as the wife ("Tom") is mesmerizing.

In the first scene, Gibbons and Eicher set the bar high for emotional investment and daring. Despite an opening night technical glitch that required them to start over just a few minutes into their song ("Hello Again"), they were undaunted and carried on as if nothing happened. As The Soldier and The Whore respectively, he appears terrified and full of nervous energy when she approaches him seductively. Although she is the coquette, Eicher displays her character's underlying need for connection and affection. When the soldier overcomes his reluctance and takes command of the situation, Gibbons powerfully asserts himself sexually (while showing his assets, as it were). With the audience seated only a few feet away, these intimate moments require great concentration on the part of the performers and they never flinch.

Most of the pairings are heterosexual, but the two that feature two men have especially poignant themes and a couple of the more melodic songs in the score. LaChiusa's compositions are an acquired taste (read: not for everyone), but Musical Director Mindy Cimini (piano) and her two band mates Colin Fleming (percussion) and Thomas Carroll (reeds) play the many styles with aplomb. While I am not a fan of LaChiusa's esoteric music, my less-than-favorable opinion was trumped by its authenticity within the context of the book and its delivery by these six voices.

Bello makes use of every nook and cranny of Hall A upstairs at the Calderwood Pavilion, and his stagecraft is compelling. Stephen Ursprung meets the challenge of choreographing for the eclectic musical styles in the limited space and creates several moments of passion. Scenic Designer Anne Sherer and Properties Master John Tracey collaborate to suggest locations that include an abandoned pier, a disco, an affluent suburban home, and ship's stateroom. Using flashlights to simulate being at the movies is just one of Chris Bocciaro's inventive lighting effects, and Costume Designer Kathleen Doyle adds incredible detail to the characterizations.

At first blush (and you may), Hello Again is about sex and sexual encounters, spanning generations and class. However, despite their noticeable differences, these characters share a longing for connection, if not love. That may sound like the theme of any number of musical theater pieces, but this is far from typical musical theater and Bridge Rep puts its distinctive stamp on the production. With strong directorial vision, fresh and fearless talent, and a commitment to connect with the audience, Hello Again is a greeting you'll want to hear.

Scenes and musical numbers

  • The Whore and The Soldier - Hello Again
  • The Soldier and The Nurse - Zei Gezent / I Gotta Little Time / We Kiss
  • The Nurse and The College Boy - In Some Other Life
  • The College Boy and The Young Wife - Story of My Life
  • The Young Wife and The Husband - At the Prom / Ah Maein Zeit / Tom
  • The Husband and The Young Thing - Listen to the Music
  • The Young Thing and The Writer - Montage / Safe / The One I Love
  • The Writer and The Actress - Silent Movie
  • The Actress and The Senator - Rock With Rock / Angel of Mercy / Mistress of the Senator
  • The Senator and The Whore - The Bed Was Not My Own / Hello Again (Reprise)

Photo credit: Marc J. Franklin (Sean Patrick Gibbons, Aubin Wise)

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