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Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello Again Transfers From Stage to Screen

Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello Again Transfers From Stage to Screen
 Audra McDonald, Martha Plimpton

Audra McDonald, Martha Plimpton

Based on Arthur Schnitzler’s (Spring Awakening) 1897 play La Ronde, Hello Again scrutinizes the sexual morals and class ideology through a series of encounters between pairs of characters (shown before or after a sexual encounter). The illicit sexual encounters involve a prostitute (Sam Underwood), a soldier (Nolan Gerard Funk), a nurse (Jenna Ushkowitz), her employer’s son (Al Calderon), a married woman (Rumer Willis), her husband (T.R. Knight), a young thing (Tyler Blackburn ),  a writer (Cheyenne Jackson), an actress (Audra McDonald), a politician (senator) (Martha Plimpton), and the prostitute again. After each encounter, one of the two partners forms a liaison with the next person, resulting in an unbroken “circle” (ronde) by the end.

Tyler Blackburn, Cheyenne Jackson

Tyler Blackburn, Cheyenne Jackson

The film, like the stage play is almost sung-through from beginning to end, with only brief pauses in which the characters speak to each other. The film plays with gender and sexuality, in multiple ways. The prostitute has been changed from a women to a man, as the female sex worker in 1901. The problem is that it is confusing. Are they a he or a she? it changes the ramifications, because of the time frame and it is unclear. Also the prostitute begins as Peep Show master of ceremonies in bright red and a mask, behind a glass wall as the senator enters seeking the answers to life. In the end the broach that was stolen from the prostitute ends up in the senator’s possession as she hands it back to the prostitute. Does this mean that there is a past life, reincarnation theme? This really should have been either explored or explained.

Jenna Ushkowitz

Jenna Ushkowitz

The senator has also been changed from male to female to add a lesbian encounter to off balance the male based liaisons.

Thought the film is cinematically beautiful thanks to Austin Schmidt’s cinematography and Annie Simeone’s lush production design, the problem with the film is the sex seems less sexual and more manipulated on screen. We do not feel as connected, as when the show is performed on stage. Part of that has to do with the direction by Tom Gustafson whose artful cutting leaves us at a distance. The sections come off as music video’s rather than intimate encounters. In Gustafson’s vision these characters are emotionally hollow. We never get a chance to honestly know or feel what they are going through. We miss the connection.

Rumor Willis, Nolan Gerard Funk

Rumor Willis, Nolan Gerard Funk

LaChiusa’s music soars here as the songs are flawlessly sung, and the orchestations, are musically joyous.

McDonald and Plimpton make us feel, but who soars here is Jenna Ushkowitz, Taylor Blackburn and Rumer Willis.

Hello Again will open up in more than 230 theatres across the U.S. as the film debuts November 8. AMC has added an additional 80 theatres, while markets including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Orlando have also added locations.

Film

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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