HELLO... HELLO by Karen Hines, music by Greg Morrison and Hines, directed by Chris Earle, with Hines, Peter Oldring, Aurora Browne and Steven Morel. Presented by the Tarragon (30 Bridgman). Runs to December 14, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $18-$32, Sunday pwyc-$15. 416-531-1827. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
in a perfect world, karen hines's Hello... Hello , the problematic but fascinating musical receiving a revised and appropriately shiny new production at the Tarragon, would be a snappy 80-minute dark comedy about consumerist culture and the destruction of the earth. But as Hines points out in her show, the world is hardly perfect. The playwright/actor reaches for things beyond her ambitious, two-hours-and-counting work's grasp. As her character's name, Cassandra, suggests, Hines is trying to be a societal soothsayer, offering us warnings about how we're all going downhill, Visa cards in hand.
This eerily beautiful world is one in which the temperature instantly plummets 45 degrees, babies can be born an inch and a half long and art is reduced to billboards of models glamourizing self-destruction, rather like those early-90s "heroin chic" ads.
Come to think of it, much of the satire - the demise of the environment, our fucked-up health care system, the consumerism around pregnancy - feels slightly warmed over, as if we've seen or heard it all before.
Rule number one: satire must be current to be effective.
In this vividly sketched-out world, Cassandra meets advertising hotshot Ben ( Peter Oldring ), and they try to live out a picture-perfect romance. But something menacing is pulling Cassandra away from her marital and consumerist bliss.
Hines's main problem is defining the tensions in this central relationship. In satire you don't expect fully developed characters, but you need something more than a pastiche of 40s-era mannerisms and sly ironic winks, which is essentially what she gives us here.
Hines is best at writing slick, oh-so-cool narration, delivered here with aplomb and note-perfect knowingness by Steven Morel and Aurora Browne , who also play contrasting couples in the Bizarro megalopolis. But the narration would suit a novel or short story better than a play.
And why a musical? Is Hines just trying to mock everything she thinks musicals represent?
Art isn't easy, and you can feel Hines trying to invent something new here - and director Chris Earle trying to help her out.
Definitely worth seeing, if only to witness one of the most fascinating flawed shows of the season.