In Sesma, Schaeffer has found an actor who easily wears a coat of sleaze. The Engineer has a dream, too: He’s a gnat who imagines he can someday be a tarantula. Except he really can’t. That’s communicated in the delusions whipped up in the Engineer’s songs, especially the Fosse-like 11 o’clock number, “The American Dream.” In an effort to underline the garishness of the Engineer’s faith in Western capitalism, the number was overproduced in the original production. Another expensive vehicle — a Cadillac — materialized onstage, and soon, the Engineer (a role originated by a reptilian Jonathan Pryce) was singing and making love to it.
Here, choreographer Karma Camp takes crafty advantage of Sesma’s slithery song-and-dance skills to fashion an off-kilter production number (sans automobile) that grows more fittingly out of the narrowness of the character’s mind. “Miss Saigon” doesn’t boast extraordinary opportunities for dance, but the relentless advance of the Viet Cong is neatly conveyed in the marching feet that clang on the set’s metal grates in “The Morning of the Dragon.”
Adam Koch’s set, curtained by a parachute, with walls of corrugated steel, functionally hews to Schaeffer’s stark aesthetic here, and lighting designer Chris Lee executes a nifty effect during the embassy evacuation scene, in which the world around Kim fades into brutal black and white.
That’s the scene in which the celebrated chopper is supposed to make its entrance. Rowe lets you feel the thudding force of unseen blades, and Koch provides glimpses of landing lights. But the more essential and exhilarating pulse belongs to Huey.
music by Claude-Michel Schonberg, lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil. Directed by Eric Schaeffer. Choreography, Karma Camp; music direction, Gabriel Mangiante; sets, Adam Koch; lighting, Chris Lee; costumes, Frank Labovitz; sound, Matt Rowe; orchestrations, William D. Brohn. With Eunice Bae, Katie Mariko Murray, Tamara Young, Stephen Gregory Smith, Ryan Sellers. About 21
2 hours. Through Sept. 29 at Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. Visit www.signature-theatre.org or call 703-573-7328.