TEN CHARACTERS, ten scenes, one tale of love and lust and passion and betrayal.
That’s Hello Again, a musical with adult themes that was the toast of Off-Broadway when it premiered in 1993.
With script, score, and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, it ties together five pairs of sexually involved people from all walks of life, from each decade of the 20th century.
The Whore, The Soldier, The Nurse, The Young Thing, The Senator – the characters have no names but are instantly recognizable.
While the effect of this bracing series of vignettes – unconnected in some ways, but deeply connected in others – comes across as very modern in approach, LaChiusa’s brainchild is based on source material from the 19th century.
“This material is ingeniously written. I knew the source material, La Ronde, which was a play by Arthur Schnitzler back in 1897,” says David I.L. Poole, who directs this production for the Collective Face Theatre Ensemble.
Hello Again’s episodic and brief nature allows a lot of storyline to be packed into a relatively compact theatrical package.
“This show has been surprising in a lot of ways. In a vignette style musical, the challenge here is to find the interconnectivity of all the stories,” Poole says.
The balance of spoken word and music is part of this show’s unique genius.
“As a composer, LaChiusa has musical interludes throughout the show that subconsciously direct them. He was influenced by many great American composers – I’d say Sondheim chief among them. This is a very Sondheim-y show,” Poole laughs.
“It’s part opera, with some sections like Sweeney Todd. Each vignette’s music is influenced by that time period.”
Hello Again seeks to involve the audience in interpreting the character’s motivations. There is no judgement, no right way or wrong way to view them.
“The audience is essentially asked to choose their own adventure. We try to show how the journey of each of these characters is portrayed, hopping time periods,” says Poole.
“Is The Nurse from one vignette the same nurse as the one in the later episode? Are they all figments of our imagination?”
The material is of a decidedly adult bent and for mature audiences only.
“This is a rated R musical. It’s a sexual musical, about the longing for something more. We talk about what intimacy really means. It’s about how lust and desire play out through and within any class structure,” says Poole.
“But it’s more than sex scene after sex scene. Some scenes are truly heartbreaking in how the characters reveal themselves.”
Adaptations of the script are encouraged; the 2017 film version, for example, makes The Senator a female figure in a secret same-sex relationship.
“We were allowed to get in and tweak the script a bit,” says Poole. “In one sequence a prostitute is changed to a male wearing drag, for example.”
The cast includes some familiar faces from Collective Face shows, along with some making their debuts in the ensemble:
Kim Patrick Limehouse is the Senator; Adam Casey Dunn is the Whore and the Young Thing; Dennis Lopez is the Soldier; Cecilia Tran Arango is the Nurse; Brandan Howell is the College Boy; Emily Grainger is the Young Wife; Gary Shelby is the Husband; Tyler Price is the Writer; and Abigail Eller is the Actress.