Theater Review: HELLO AGAIN (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre in Evanston)

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by Lawrence Bommer on September 23, 2019

in Theater-Chicago


You could call it a daisy chain of horizontal encounters, this chronicle of sexual partisans whose sleeping around creates a sort of chain letter of lust.

A ton of talent reduced to silly shenanigans — a miscalculation dogs director/choreographer Brenda Didier’s revival of Hello Again, Michael John LaChiusa’s 1993 musical trivialization of Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde. In 1900 Schnitzler’s bittersweet depiction of intersecting lovers indulging in a sexual round dance (until the first and last lovers come full circle, along with a pilfered brooch) was bold comedy. Its game of erotic tag created a democracy of desire. Promisingly, LaChiusa (known for The Wild Party and Marie Christine) updates the soldier, governess, writer, count and other partners and adds twosome same-sex mergers.

These ships that pass in the night (not without an occasional sinking, one quite literal) depict more or (mainly) less erotic examples of “carnal gratification.” One partner scratches the other’s itch as they pass along the pulchritude like a psychological STD. It’s a passion play in the most sensuous sense, enough to make you cynically wonder if sex reduces us to interchangeable parts in a game of “Round Robin” bigger than we ever grasp.

LaChiusa goes ambitiously wrong by spreading their hook-ups across the entire 20th century (presumably to display a pastiche score that, sadly, remains generic and uninspired).

Even worse is his showy decision to run the scenes randomly: Plucked out of steerage by a randy tycoon, the kept boy who does a torrid tango on the Titanic (as it goes down) becomes in the next scene a disco bunny ogled by an ego-ridden screenwriter. To each scene you can only ask, “Why then?” or “Why now?”.

Happily, the emotional attractiveness and inexhaustible energy of this supple young cast make the 85-minutes far sexier than the material deserves. But, though it’s easy to imagine them lusting after each other on their own, they also seem curiously innocent. The sadness of their solitude lingers on long after the liaisons.

Anyway, for all the high-spirited crooning and hoofing, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre’s wonderful overachievers only reinvent ten illicit sexist stereotypes. Rachel Boylan’s time-capsule costumes chart the decades and stand out too starkly against the spiral staircase that presides over these casual couplings. And it’s all to prove the paradox that free love is never free. You get what you lust for — and a bit less or more…

photos by Austin D. Oie

Hello Again
Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
Howard Street Theatre, 721 Howard Street in Evanston
Thurs-Sat at 7:30; Sun at 7
ends on July 28, 2019
for tickets, call 773.347.1109  or visit Theo U

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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