note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey
The Lyric Stage Company is giving Michael John LaChiusa’s “Rashomon” musical, SEE WHAT I WANNA SEE its best shot---with stirring performances by Brendan McNabb, Andrew Giordano, June Baboian, Aimee Doherty and Andrew Schufman. The whole experience, however, sent my mind reeling in other directions.
The BeeGees had a hit in the ‘70s with an extremely strange song called “I Started a Joke” [that started the whole world crying]. I suspect Mr. LaChiusa is a BeeGees fan because the whole of Act II hinges on a “joke” started by a disillusioned priest who keeps repeating the BeeGees line. I know. I know. The program says the “joke” is based on a short story by Ryunosuke Akutagawa but I blame the Gibbs!
Act II is infinitely better than Act I because it is linear and melodic and compelling. It’s even funny and best of all, it has no operatic pretensions. Act I is dissonant just for its own sake, the way atonal “new music” tries so hard to forsake beauty. LaChiusa begins Act I with chords which suggest the Japanese theme of the Kurosawa film, then abandons them to a Philip Glass-Hans Werner Henze-ish headache of a hodgepodge.
The “Rashomon” story of rape and murder is seen from many angles: from each of the characters’ perspectives as well as from ours so that one cannot tell the truth from the lie. The costumes (by Rafael Jean) are ravishing, from the elaborate silk dragon kimonos to Baby’s gorgeous sea foam green ‘50s cocktail dress. Brynna Bloomfield’s cool, hammered bronze Tokoyo gate catches Karen Perlow’s light in its concavities, then it miraculously mimics trees when we are told we’re in Central Park. Stephen Terrell’s choreographed direction for the Japanese scenes is breathtakingly lovely. Even the slow motion murder blows are choreographed (by Meron Langsner).
Jonathan Goldberg’s orchestra traverses the minefield of LaChiusa’s score bravely and Goldberg gets polished singing from the ensemble with highlights from June Baboan as Aunt Monica delivering “The Greatest Practical Joke” and from Andrew Goirdano as the CPA hitting a high “G” in the Central Park aria. So what do I know about truth. This is just an opinion. As the medium with “psychic interruptus” tells us, “Only the dead tell the truth.” SEE WHAT I WANNA SEE plays through Feb. 3rd.