Book, Music, and Lyrics by Riley Thomas; Directed by Jeremy Scott Lapp
Produced by New York Musical Theatre Festival
Off Off Broadway, New Musical
Runs through 7.15.15
Theater 3, 311 West 43rd Street, 3rd Floor
by Angel Lam on 7.13.15
The cast of Wearing Black. Photo by Antonio Minino.
BOTTOM LINE: A driving contemporary rock score unfolds a dark tale of death, grief, anger and rediscovered relationships.
It seems challenging to write a musical about death and loss. Wearing Black is a dark, gripping musical about Evan (Kevin Schuering), after his twin brother Charlie dies in a drug related accident, struggling to find his own identity. He no longer needs to clean up for his brother’s messes and screw-ups. In his quest to understand his twin brother, he suddenly finds himself spiraling downward into drugs, anger and grief, dragging his closest friends and family down with him.
It's an intimate subject and we all know somebody who has lost a loved one and gone through tremendous grief and soul searching times. The show, with book, lyrics and music by Riley Thomas, orchestration by Thomas and Ben Caplan, and music direction by Caplan, is soulful with great magnetic energy. They use only four instrumentalists to weave a driving piano score highlighted by melodic guitar and bass, and drums that complete a lush soundscape. Thomas previously performed his award-winning “Stuck” at NYMF in 2012. “Wearing Black” began as an excerpt in 2011 and won best score at the Frigid Festival in 2013.
The cast is excellent. Schuering carries the show as Evan with inner strength and detail, from the “good” twin to becoming angry, lost, and then found again. Both Erin Maya as the train-wrecked Kristin, and Alexis Field as intelligent, caring Alyssa, are realistic and familiar. BJ Gruber as Nate is funny and layback, and Mark Coffin as Hugh, the twin brothers’ unforgiving father, is stoic and fatherly.
Direction by Jeremy Scott Lapp is well done in the small set, with effective lighting design by David Goldstein. The intimate living room space, creative entrances/exits and elevated upstage silhouette are memorable.
(Wearing Black plays at Theater 3, 311 West 43rd Street, 3rd Floor, through July 15, 2015. The remaining performance is Wednesday, July 15th at 1pm. Tickets are $27.50 and are available at nymf.org or by calling 212-352-3101.)