Based on short stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, See What I Wanna See tells stories of two different time lines questioning truth and faith. Originally work shopped at Williamstown Theater Festival and produced at the Public Theatre, writer and composer Michael John Lachuisa’s unique parallel storyline emphasizes how life mirrors art and vice-versa.
Director Megan Nicole O’Brien leads this cast effectively, creating a cohesive message through the different storylines within stories. As an audience member, I felt immersed in this theatrical universe, dropped into the 1950s and early 2000s Central Park as well as the Japanese film bookending the acts outside of the narrative.
All five actors have the incredible ability to oscillate between multiple distinctive worlds and somehow creating a clear ensemble dynamic throughout. While the first half of the musical is grounded is darker themes and tones, the cast especially excels in the comedic moments in both halves.
Music Director Dan Kazemi, who also played the keyboard and conducted orchestrates the five-person band, led these vocal acrobatics to success. The entire original score was fantastically sung and orchestrated, with the jazz and Japanese musical styling handled well. The orchestra and cast sounded great in part with help with Toby Petit’s effective sound design. The entire cast sings the show with unparalleled talent.
Michael Philip O’Brien’s New York Thief is simultaneously slimy and endearing as hell. Billy Bustamante wins the audience over as a questioning priest who actions sets in motion Act II. Jake Blouch’s CPA-turned-homeless man is especially hilarious. Nancie Sanderson and Cara Noel Antosca cannot only sing to perfection, but embody the variation of archetypal female roles in fully fleshed, grounded places not frequently found in period pieces.
Scenery by Maura Roach consisted of several moving parts interchangeable for each location. A specifically helpful element was the moving of the lamp posts, representing of different character’s perspective while remaining in the same location. The lighting by Dominic Chacon helped defined the space, from the leafy Central Park to clinical interrogation rooms.
Period costumes by Amanda Wolff are not only beautifully designed for the 1950s, but are flattering and gorgeous in every actor. The Japanese kimonos that open the show give beautiful alternative silhouettes.
11th Hour Theatre Company’s See What What I Wanna See is unique in its narrative, quite like nothing you’ve seen before. So trust me, you’ll wanna see it while you can.
Running Time: Two hours and an intermission.
11th Hour Theatre Company’s See What I Wanna See is playing through May 15, 2016 at Christ Church Community House – 20 North American Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (267) 987-9865, or purchase them online.