The longest piece is "R Shomon," which makes up the rest of Act 1. The story involves a thief who raped a woman (or maybe she willingly went with him) and killed her husband (or maybe she killed him or maybe he committed suicide). There's also the janitor who found the body and the medium who goes to the police to tell them what the husband's version of events is. There is a lively, jazzy score, suitable for a story set in 1950's New York. The title song is particularly memorable (and I expect to go around humming it for several days to come.) While the story is dark, the medium provides a nice comic touch. How you react to this will depend a lot on how you feel about "Rashomon."
The final story, "Gloryday," is set in post-9/11 New York and involves a priest who has lost his faith. He puts up a message in Central Park, telling of a miracle to come, intending to mock the people who gather expecting it. The other characters include a CPA who has abandoned his former life and is living in the park, a drug-crazed actress (whose song "Coffee" is another notable piece), a reporter, and the priest's Aunt Monica, a long time atheist. I won't give away what happens but, again, everybody sees things just enough differently to make it interesting.
I can understand reviewers having problems with the change in tone and the difficulty of the material. But I really enjoyed this show, largely because I liked the score so much. All of the performers were good, particularly Channez McQuay as the medium and Aunt Monica.
Before this weekend, I'd heard of Michael John LaChiusa, but didn't really know any of his work. I'm likely to seek out more of his musicals after seeing this (and yesterday's "Giant"). It's nice to see somebody doing grown-up musical theatre.
By the way, I decided it was best not to use my car until I can get it serviced. So I took the bus, which was easier than I expected. The fundamental problem is that, while several bus lines go to Shirlington, they leave from different metro stations. And train timing is not exactly reliable, especially on weekends when track work tends to cause delays. Going there, I chose to go from Ballston, since there are two bus lines which would work, and got saddled with about a 35 minute wait. Coming back was easier, since the express bus to the Pentagon came right away. It's worth considering for the future, especially since I have almost decided to subscribe for the 2009-2010 season.