The Little Theater in Humanities Hall served as the stage for the Drama Department’s latest production, “Hello, Again,” a musical by Michael John La Chiusa, last weekend from March 9 to 11.
The musical, written by La Chiusa, revolves around 10 characters and the love affairs among them. The 10 scenes pair up characters with one another in different eras of the 20th century, from the glamorous 1920s to the disco-filled 1970s. Each scene features a different sexual encounter between the pair of characters, but the scenes come together in an intertwined series that displays how sex — and the attached emotional baggage — is prevalent through all eras and levels of society.
Director and choreographer Roger Castellano, however, notes that he believes it is not sex that is the focus of “Hello, Again.” Instead, he points to the “struggle with the lack of communication that the characters encounter.”
The “mature audiences only” label points to more than just the sexual acts the actors perform; the production isn’t merely 10 sex scenes sewn together. The characters, despite their lovemaking, each express a desire for something more; they are still not happy after their sexual activities. Despite the lovemaking, the lovers miss connecting on anything but in carnal pleasure.
In the opening scene, set in the early 1900s, the Whore (Amani Dom) tries to seduce the Soldier (Anthony Chatmon). The second scene jumps to the 1940s, where the Soldier shares some time with the Nurse (Jenna Locke). The third scene continues to the 1960s, and the Nurse turns dominatrix as she ties down the College Boy (Marcus Silva), and the scenes come one after another until the final one, which brings the Whore around full circle.
The 90-minute show felt much shorter than it actually was, and once it was over, like a dream, it was difficult to remember everything that had happened. Each scene flowed from one to the next as the characters walked in and out of the darkness on the sides of the stage. The scenes did not move particularly quickly, but the intensity of the lovers in action, plus the rapid set changes, made sure the audience was never watching a lull in pacing. The subtle focusing of the lights in the center of the stage lent a certain soft, isolated feel to each scene, especially in contrast to the raucous tusslings going on.
The musical director, Dennis Castellano, leads a trio of musicians — Michael Calderon on the violoncello, Albert Law with percussion and Castellano himself on the keyboard. The music varies from each era of the 20th century to the next, ranging from opera to jitterbug. Still, the songs, though they may be sung from people of different times and circumstances, still carry the yearnings, fears and desires of the characters.
In the title song “Hello, Again” the Whore sings to the Soldier, “You don’t have to remember a face, a place or when; we may die tomorrow.” The Soldier responds to her existential callings for companionship with an appropriate, “Aw, hell!” as he vigorously engages with her. As quickly as he jumps at the opportunity, however, he just as quickly disengages himself after the deed. The Whore attempts to ask for a dime, saying, “We may never be saying hello again … ” but the Soldier responds with a curt, “Go to hell,” and leaves.
The lyrics to the other songs deal with similar emotional and philosophical yearnings despite the sex. The Young Wife (Siobhan Doherty) sings of being “morally bankrupt” while trying to arouse the College Boy, with whom she is having an affair. The Husband (Jacob Dresch), as we find later, is having an affair of his own with the Young Thing (Zach Reiner-Harris) as they meet up aboard the Titanic, as fate would have it, on its doomed inaugural voyage.
The Husband sings, “This will all pass, this ship of dreams … My life will pass, but till it does, I’d like to live what’s left of it right here.” The Husband yearned for love in the face of the crushing reality of inevitability but was refused of it, and all he could do is wait for death to come as his world comes crashing down around him.
The play comes full circle in the last scene, with the Whore in bed with the Senator (Connor Bond), a coming together of past and present.
He wakes up in bed with her, and as he tries to leave, the Whore calls to him, repeating the same lyrics as in the beginning, with a slight difference: “You don’t have to remember a face or place or when. Come find me tomorrow … I’m sure we’ll be saying hello … ” The scene ends with all characters singing, “Hello, again,” as they still search for connecting with a lover on a level other than sexual, but as the Whore says, they’ll be back, engaging in the same empty gestures.
The cast and musicians of “Hello, Again” manage to capture the intense passion and yearning that characterizes La Chiusa’s musical. The choreography by director Roger Castellano and musical direction by Dennis Castellano take the audience on a nearly 90-minute dream sequence, exploring the passion and intensity of sex, as well as its shortcomings in finding true love and fulfillment. It’s only at the end where the audience has to wake up and say hello again, to our own realities and lovers.