The Riverside Symphony

By Michael Niederman; Directed by Hondo Weiss-Richmand

BOTTOM LINE: A complex character study, exploring the personal conflicts of several differing Riverside Park visitors.

"Cassandraaaa." "Where's Dylan?" "Piiiigeon." These calls permeate the air. From these three offstage voices plus sounds of children playing and traffic in the distance, it's immediately clear what the play's title refers to. The "Riverside" in question is the Upper West Side's beautiful Riverside Park and the "Symphony" is the cacophony of sounds one hears there - seemingly random at first, but deeply layered once you're aware of their meaning.

Thus, The Riverside Symphony explores these sounds, or rather, the people making them. Seven different characters are introduced, creating three vignettes all happening at the park. Although the stories themselves never intertwine, they are told as scenes, interspersed between the other stories.

An interesting character study, the play examines conflict common in life, regardless of (or perhaps because of) age, race, pressure and social status. The bottom line is that life is complicted and no matter how perfect it seems, one is never immune from internal and external conflicts. Even at the park.

Through these characters - two high school seniors, a wealthy New York couple and their nanny, a self-induced homeless poet and his agent - existential questions abound. Do I escape to another city? Do I throw away my past and start over again?

Heads butt, tempers flare and insults fly as the characters navigate their stresses. Although this breeds high and consistent energy, my favorite moments in this show were the more nuanced and plot driven ones, like the married couple's love triangle. I could've used twenty minutes more plot development and forty minutes less arguing.

The Riverside Symphony could benefit from some editing and a little focus. Right now it's an interesting slice-of-life piece with countless dramatic possibilities. I'd love to see where those story lines go. The characters remain somewhat one-dimensional and although there is ample set-up, there is little follow-through. The characters' plights are relatable and sincere - I'd like to see them through.

(The Riverside Symphony is part of the Planet Connections Festivity and plays at the Robert Moss Theatre, 440 Lafayette, 3rd Floor. Remaining performances are June 12th at 1:45pm, June 17th at 4pm, June 20th at 11am, and June 26th at 3pm. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at