Hello Again at the Hope Theatre
Hello Again promises an exploration of “the depths of sexuality and sexual attraction” – but Tania Azevedo’s production of the cult musical could hardly be shallower or less sexy.
Since the musical debuted off Broadway in 1993, it has always been performed with ten actors. Azevedo’s version has five and the reasoning behind this decision isn’t clear; the play’s time-hops and quick changes would have benefitted greatly from a larger cast. Consequently, the actors are given the near-impossible task of crafting memorable characters in just a few minutes of stage time.
The non-linear narrative means we hardly have time to process (for example) that Thea Jo Wolfe is no longer a riverside prostitute in the 1940s, but the wife of an uptight businessman in the 10s. The play is incredibly difficult to follow as anything more than a set of brief sketches.
Hello Again’s undercooked plot is frustrating, but the most grating element of the show is the sex. The play is meant to explore the diverse aspects of human sexuality, but its attitude towards sex is alarmingly backward. Isabella Messarra’s nurse submits to a soldier after he gropes her at length; a young wife leaps at the chance to fellate a moon-eyed college boy – but only after he forces her hand down his pants. The sex in Hello Again is usually semi-consensual, and carried out between unsympathetic characters. It’s very difficult to watch.
Female characters in Hello Again are the worst kind of stereotype. They resist sex to preserve their reputations, but give in to men’s demands as long as those men violate their wishes with enough persistence. Occasional lip-service is paid to feminism, but it only serves to emphasise the grimness of the play’s prevailing attitude towards sex: a five-second radio snippet on women’s lib falls short of redeeming the play’s consistently Neanderthal opinion of sex
The characters – the whore with a heart of gold, the young actress in love with a senator, the writer in search of a muse – are beyond tired. These are not stories anybody need to see again. Hello Again is crippled by deeply unoriginal lead roles and plot, but Michael LaChiusa’s script and score were just as insipid. The cliché dialogue between numbers (almost exclusively sung rather than spoken) is almost plainsong, so empty is it of meaning or melody; the songs themselves are little better.
In truth, this is a musical best left unrevived.
The editorial unit
Hello Again is at the Hope Theatre from 20th October until 7th November, for futher information or to book visit here