Michael John LaChiusa based his 2005 collection of short-form musical pieces on short stories by Japanese writer Ryunosuke Akutagawa, whose work also inspired Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon. LaChiusa draws from both Kurosawa and the corresponding Akutagawa story for his first act, “R Shomon,” the tale of a Central Park murder on the night of Rashomon’s 1951 New York premiere. Like its sources, “R Shomon” looks at a violent act from multiple perspectives. Yet none of them, nor LaChiusa’s spiky score, are all that compelling as told by Bailiwick’s talented five-member cast; Peter Oyloe and Danni Smith seem particularly uncomfortable as a small-time thief and a nightclub chanteuse.
But it’s Oyloe and Smith who bring an intense shine to “Gloryday,” the much more accessible second act set in Central Park after September 11. (Both acts get a brief, awkward prelude about a pair of lovers in medieval Japan.) As a disillusioned priest and his socialist-atheist aunt, Oyloe and Smith make the questioning of faith and its rediscovery seem as natural, and as vital, as breathing.