See What I Wanna See

  • Date:
    October 1, 2005
    Review by:
    Polly Wittenberg

    Review by Polly Wittenberg

    Book, Music & Lyrics by: Michael John LaChiusa
    Directed by: Ted Sperling
    Cast: Marc Kudisch, Aaron Lohr, Idina Menzel, Henry Stram, Mary Testa.
    Synopsis: A park. A thief. A priest. A psychic. A miracle. A lie. The truth. From a mysterious murder in Central Park to the miracle of a devastated city�s rebirth.

    Polly Wittenberg's Review.

    I guess that the title of Michael John LaChiusa�s new musical at the Public Anspacher, See What I Wanna See, says it all. But don�t hold me to it, because the sequence of scenes that constitutes the plot (two set in a bedroom in medieval Japan, one set in the interrogation room of a New York City police station in 1951 and one set in Central Park in the present day) seemed so obscure to me that I�m not sure I understood it at all.

    I suppose that there was some clue in the �title� of the second scene�the one set in the police station. According to the program, it is labeled �R Shomon��as in Rashomon (the well-known 1959 play set in medieval Japan about the differing views of witnesses to the murder of a samurai) without the �a�. And from that I guess that I�m supposed to conclude that LaChiusa�s piece is really about the self-absorbed reactions of each of the unnamed characters (which include a janitor, a thief, a medium, a priest, a CPA, an actress and a reporter, among others) to love (the scenes in Japan), to murder (the police station scene) and to truth (the Central Park scene). But the whole thing is so convoluted that I�m not sure what it is really about.

    What I do know is that it�s a sung-through musical with, on the positive side, a few clever lyrics including a list of terrible things that a wife can be forced to do by her over-bearing husband and references to Henry Kissinger selling nukes and minor celebrities like Mark and Dorothy Hamill. On the negative side, there are lyrics in the scenes set in medieval Japan that include four-letter words that sound distinctly 21st century. And the music is, well, unending.

    Under the fluid direction of Ted Sperling, it�s been given a simple stylized production by Thomas Lynch (sets), Elizabeth Caitlin Ward (costumes) and Christopher Akerlind (lights). And the cast�Idina Menzel, Marc Kudisch, Aaron Lohr, Henry Stram and Mary Testa�is full of attractive folk who can both sing and act.

    Having recently suffered through In My Life with book, lyrics and music by Joseph Brooks, I was somewhat unnerved to find that all of the words and music for this show are by LaChiusa. Another vanity production? I�m afraid so, but perhaps a more sophisticated one than the Brooks bomb. And not that much more enjoyable.

    The next time I open a Playbill and find that all aspects of the development of a musical (usually a very collaborative art) are the work of one person; I�m heading directly for the exit.

    Polly Wittenberg