HELLO AGAIN by Michael John LaChiusa, directed by Michelle Ouellet (Hello Again Collective). Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Runs to July 1. $22, Sunday pwyc. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Round and round they go, pairs of lovers constantly switching partners in Michael John LaChiusa 's Hello Again , a time-leaping musical take on Schnitzler's La Ronde. As in the original, the 10 scenes move in a carousel-like fashion, revealing unrequited desires and, even in eras of apparent licence, straitjacketing social codes.
LaChiusa offers lots of clever links and contrasts between one two-character episode and the next, even as he switches settings from the 1900s to the 1980s. A fast-talking soldier ( Graham Coffeng ) seduces a shy nurse ( Whitney Barris ) in the 40s, and we next see the nurse it's now the 60s doing a sultry vamp with a virginal college boy ( Nicholas Carella ).
In the 50s, an uptight husband ( Greg Campbell ) demands fidelity of his secretly philandering wife ( Zoë Sweet ), but he next shows up in 1912 wooing a young man ( Glen Sheppard ) on an Atlantic cruise.
The music suits each period neatly, and the writer provides some thoughtful lyrics and appealing melodies. Musical director Jacqueline Sadler uses each tune to tap into a scene's mood.
The performances are variable, though, even with the nice touches that director Michelle Ouellet provides. Some in the cast are stronger actors than singers, while others carry little weight in either spoken or sung dialogue. Coffeng, Barris, Campbell, Sweet and Scott Maudsley stand out, as does Carella with his comic skills.
Moving the action full circle, and doing so beautifully, is Suzanne Bennett 's whore, who appears in the first and last scene.
Sensual and wise with a touch of naveté, Bennett brings a warm-voiced vibrato and an emotional reality to this series of hopeful love stories that turn, in a heartbeat, into 10 tales of curdled romance.