“See What I Wanna See”


***** Each year, Steppenwolf Theatre plays host to a wonderful experience in their Garage venue ( which over the years has truly transformed itself from the ground floor of a multi level parking garage to a quality place to view plays. This year, the three shows are ones that have a unique voice but are worthy of what Steppenwolf’s original concept of The garage was- new works, new companies  and new ideas, including its very first “Chamber Musical” which was the one I chose to see tonight, “See What I Wanna See” written by Michael John LaChiusa ( words and music) with solid direction by Lili-Anne Brown and music direction by James Morehead.

This is considered a three part musical that explores lust and greed along with murder, redemption and faith, in oneself and possibly in humanity as well as in God!. This is the presentation of Bailiwick Chicago and has a cast of wonderful performers who are able to use this chamber piece to show off the wide range they have, not just with their vocal ability, but more so with their character development.This is a two act play, with the second act ( perhaps the third actual story) having the most power and solid self containment. The first story is a 1950′s “murder noir” film and has some confusing spots. A murder takes place and then we have a room, perhaps an interrogation room where several characters are telling their story of how this murder took place; the janitor at the theater, the  Wife, The mistress and the thug. Each character is solid and the movement of the characters is more choreographed than directed adding to the marvelous flow of Brown’s skill.

The cast members are all solid in their portrayals of these strong characters, Harter Clingman, Sharriese Hamilton, Evan Tyrone Martin, Danni Smith and Peter Oyloe, who goes from hoodlum to Priest in the second portion of the play. Here I must say, the two plays really do not need each other to survive and be a rewarding experience for an audience. In fact, one might feel the need to sever them so that each can stand on its own merit and this would make it far less confusing for those who were trying to relate one to the other, they need not be as one!
In act, on a personal note, the second could be expanded to be 90 minutes with a little more music and possibly an introduction of one more character and be a perfect, yea, almost Sondheim moment of musical theater. LaChiusa must be a lover of his work and for sure was inspired by the great Sondheim ( many have been in the past and will continue to be in years to come). The basic concept of these stories is how we, as individuals , can see the same thing in different ways and while it was not as strong in the first, it was powerful in the second story as a Priest ( well sung by Oyloe) who is somewhat lost in his faith and so he puts a note on a tree that something special will be taking place at Central Park on a specific date., a Miracle” is what the passers by feel it will be and each one begins to set their minds towards this “Glory Day”, anticipating the goodness that will come from this special moment. Again, each, with their own eyes and of course minds, sees what they want to see and in the end ( which I will not divulge, lest it ruins your viewing) we find some big surprises for each of the characters and of course, the Priest.
This score, which combines many elements of music; Jazz, Pop,Classical with some intense Asian influences drives the story, almost like an opera of sorts and the actors in this strong piece are worthy of the ovation they get from the audience that has an opportunity to experience theater like this. What is truth? What is man or woman capable of doing in order to make their own truths ( what they see) really truths? You can experience this wonderful musical story  at The Steppenwolf Garage as part of its “Garage Series” along with  ”She Kills Monsters” ( A Buzz22 Chicago production) and “Black Top Sky” ( a Theatre Seven of Chicago production).

While there is a calendar the shows are subject to change, so it is best to check with www.steppenwolf.org for exact times . The tickets are $20 and a three play pass, $45. They can be purchased at Steppenwolf, 1650 N. Halsted, by phone at 312-335-1650 or online at www.steppenwolf.org if you are student, you might get one of the limited number os special student tickets at www.steppenwolf.org/students
Steppenwolf”s Garage Theatre is located just South of the Mainstage and just North of North Avenue on Halsted. This rep will continue through  April 21st
Have a ball!