Hello... Hello (A Romantic Satire)

Karen Hines's genre-defying 4-person play with songs has been presented at Toronto's Factory Theatre and Tarragon Theatre, and was nominated for 6 Dora Awards, 3 Canadian Comedy Awards and the Chalmers Playwriting Award, as well as winner of the 2007 Alberta Writers Guild Award for Drama. With music by Tony Award-winner Greg Morrison (The Drowsy Chaperone).

From the reviews:

In a world gone whimsically insane, Hines has created a rich satire on the intersections between business, art and love. Gentle, hialrious and tragic, Hello...Hello is more than a theatrical magic trick that turns four actors into an entire world; it is an absorbing universe contained in 112 pages.
- Jeff Kubick, Alberta Views

The momentum and perspicacity of this inventive play is evident on the page. It is also obvious why Hines is lauded as one of the nation's premier dramatists.'
– Eye Weekly

A deliciously dark slice of urban whimsy ... who else [but Hines] could take the horrible image of birds crashing into mirrored skyscrapers and plummeting to their deaths and imbue it with such melancholy charm?
– Books in Canada

With influences as diverse and seemingly mismatched as Greek tragedy and mid-century Hollywood musicals, Karen Hines's latest satire is a bizarrely compelling work.
– Quill & Quire

Globe and Mail Theatre Critic
Friday May 7, 1999

Karen Hines plays a woman with visions of the meaninglessness of life in a musical satire that has emotional and thematic resonance.

Written by Karen Hines;
Score by Greg Morrison with Karen Hines.
Directed by Chris Earle
Starring Karen Hines, David Jansen, Steven Morel and Teresa Pavlinek

In Karen Hines's new musical satire hello ... hello, all the world has gone crazy for a new jewelry item, a perfect little silver ball that hangs from a chain around the neck - and contains within it a drop of deadly poison. Her show is similar: an exquisitely crafted piece with some poisonous content.

Set in a future that features both the gleaming veneer of a Fred Astaire movie and the most apocalyptic visions of the present come true, hello . . . hello is a love story - sort of. In the graveyard where she mourns her dead boyfriend, a suicidal artist in an age that has forgotten art, Cassandra meets Ben, a man who knows how to put his poetic soul to good capitalist use. They fall in love, have sex in their designer underwear, marry, honeymoon in an exotic location, and set out living the very good life. But Cassandra (as her mythic name might suggest) is someone with visions: for all Ben's attention and material comforts, she can not escape intimations that life is meaningless and love a false consolation.

Hines, director of the horror clowns Mump and Smoot and star of her own one-woman comedy shows featuring the narcissistic Pochsy, is seeking to create a highly unusual effect here. More than half of her script is not theatrical dialogue but rather literary narration, delivered by a two-person chorus who describe in flowery language this polluted, consumerist world in which everyone is outrageously happy but suicide is fashionable. They also recount the progress of the love story and sing along with Cassandra and Ben on the show's deceptively cheery musical numbers.

If Hines succeeds, creating a piece that is seamlessly stylish and intellectually provocative, it is thanks not only to her sharp script and pert performance in the role of Cassandra, but also because music director Greg Morrison has composed bright little tunes that perfectly off-set the dark little lyrics he and Hines have co-written. They are a duo who would think to rhyme "outrageous" with "sagacious" as the musical line bounces along underneath, or include a joyous song about pregnancy entitled When a Rabbit Dies. Chris Earle's direction is also smartly in step with Hines's style while Vikki Anderson's set and costume designs quickly capture the look of 1930's modernist glamour that summarizes this dysTOPia.

Hines's perfectly petite Cassandra is a smooth mix of playful expressionism, delicate clowning and a dash of natural emotion, while in the role of Ben Stratford veteran David Jansen is solid. In fact, he's a little too, solid for this arch show which demands a more light-fingered approach to Ben's mute confusion. As the saucy chorus, Steven Morel and Teresa Pavlinek nearly produce the required tone in both speech and song.

With its fixed attitudes and narrow emotions, satire is always a limited dramatic form, that hello ... hello should resonate emotionally and thematically as much as it does is a great testament to the production and to Hines's pen. That said. the self-consciousness of this show, forever winking its eye at the gap between its zippy tunes and black lyrics, its entertaining surface and hellish depths, is also cloying. Like the deadly silver ball, hello ... hello is an acquired taste for a disaffected age.