Ten pairs of lovers, ten pairs of strangers. This musical is a La Ronde adaptation, meaning it performs the same cyclical game as Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 play about ten interlocking sets of romantic partners: the whore tosses a freebie to the soldier, who trifles with the nurse, who seduces the college boy, who leads the businessman's young wife astray, on down the line until the whore returns and the circle is complete.
Nobody exactly frolics on this model of romance. Playwright and composer Michael John LaChiusa's people try hard to feel the excitement of tossing away inhibition, but inhibition and dignity are so similar that they regret their transgressions immediately and wish time could go backward. Passions flag, the wrong thing is said. Suddenly, they're not heroes in their own romances; they're just people in rooms, misbehaving. Having tried to enliven existence by stepping out of bounds, they find that the lines have relocated to include this deviance, and the excitement of supposed transgression wears off all too quickly. As scene after scene painfully evinces, having the thing we wanted can suddenly make us not want it anymore.
I was impressed with the fluid staging of director Brenda Didier's production, which kicks off Theo Ubique's new season in the company's delightful Evanston space. I started to name actors and actresses who deserved special commendation and found there were too many; this is a stellar cast. Big up to the versatile house band, which is conducted by keyboardist Jeremy Ramey. v