Venture to 52 Mercer for an immersive — but noninvasive — experience that stands apart from the norm without being so experimental that you’ll wish you’d seen something safer.
Entering the open-loft theater space in which “Hello Again” is staged, audience members choose their seats from an oval of low, clothed tables. A bed sparsely dressed in the center of the room sets the mood, so to speak, for the play to come — a catalog of 10 couples who, through interrelated events across various decades, all explore the murky space where sentiment, circumstance and sex conjoin — or don’t. Although this focal pallet isn’t used until the third chapter, the audience can’t help but be aware of it as couplings occur elsewhere: the tabletops, against a pole. And that’s just the beginning of this soul-searching production by Transport Group.
Though the play can be described as exhibitionist, it is finely tuned so that a unique connection is made with each of the characters, who fulfill such tropes as The Soldier (Max von Essen), The Nurse (Elizabeth Stanley), The College Boy (Robert Lenzi); this makes their stories feel experienced, rather than witnessed. Though recurrent, nudity is handled with tact.
Although the show relies on emblems (mirrors, candles, broaches), it needn’t. Michael John LaChiusa’s structure, songs and stories carry the themes, along with a looming sense of star-crossed fatalism. Unpredictably, it is The Whore (Nikka Graff Lanzarone) who achieves what are arguably the most genuine moments in the play — which in itself offers commentary on the inherent discord between love and lust. Realizing which encounters speak most to you and then having the nerve to ask why is a process which, like the show itself, will linger in your conscience long after you leave.