Signature's See What I Wanna See

The two acts of Michael John LaChiusa’s See What I Wanna See are different in plot, but united by the theme of truth – what is it? And can different people have different truths? As noted in the previous posting on this production, the plots are taken from short stories by Ryunouske Akutagawa. The two acts are prefaced by a third story, told from the first time from the point of view of Kesa (Rachel Zampelli), and the second time from the point of view of Morito (Tom Zemon). It serves as a rather ingenious way to link the two acts as (I would guess) the staging each time is exactly the same, but you notice something different the second time through. (I’ll refrain from summarizing the other plots as it has been done previously on this blog).

In terms of dramatic power, the second act rises above the first. The first act feels like an intellectual exercise, interesting, but not emotionally engaging. The second act, anchored by Bobby Smith’s performance as a priest, has the heart that the first act lacks. Smith’s character has lost his faith in the wake of terrible events that have occurred (unspecified, but clearly September 11th, 2001). His congregants ask him for answers, and he realizes that he has none, and that there never have been any answers. He concocts an elaborate hoax, promising the occurrence of a miracle, in order to make people realize that there is no God. His hoax gets out of control, touching the lives of many people, and touching his own life. He meets people on the street and learns of the human need for hope, for the promise of something better. In the end, the miracle turns out to be only for him.

The set is works well in this intimate space. Partially covering the orchestra from view is a series of black reflective poles. These poles serve to connect the different worlds of the musical. They echo the birch trees found in Japanese art, but they also show the trees of Central Park and the street lamps of New York City.

The voices are more nasal than fit my personal taste, but otherwise the performances are fine. Bobby Smith really shines in the second act, and Matt Pearson has fantastic stage presence and charisma.

3 stars
Through May 31st


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