“Wearing Black” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at Theater 3 (Closed Wednesday July 15, 2015)

“Wearing Black” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival at Theater 3 (Through Wednesday July 15, 2015)
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Riley Thomas
Directed by Jeremy Scott Lapp
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Add “Wearing Black,” currently presented as part of NYMF at Theater 3, to the growing list of NYMF plays this week (number three) that deal with young adults dealing with the loss of a friend and a sibling in a frivolous and avoidable fatal car accident. In this play, a drug addicted twin brother drives his car off a bridge. The surviving brother has sex with the deceased brother’s drug addicted girlfriend before she does an overdose in a successful suicide. Moving on, the surviving twin brother then has a one night stand with his roommate’s fiancé, and his roommate (the only innocent nice guy) moves out. There is more: The alcoholic father shows up at apartment with a gift of a case of liquor for his substance abusing surviving twin because he is going sober and moving to Telluride. I guess everything will be OK but all the subplots are never really concluded. These characters are human, warts and all but there has to be something about them you like in order to care about them. They are self serving and one dimensional and are made to react to situations rather than people. The book is weak and the lyrics trite and cliché. The music is varied and at times supportive of the characters’ reactions but serves best – in combination with the lyrics – when exposing character development and moving the flimsy plot forward. Two good examples of this are “Stories” handled admirably by Mark Coffin as the father and “I’ll Learn from You” delivered with delight by Alexis Field as Alyssa and BJ Gruber as Nate.

The cast works hard but fails to overcome the aforementioned problems. The direction is erratic, with some scenes overemphasized, but in general the actors move at a comfortable pace. The production lies somewhere between a concept musical and a rock opera which might be fine individually but certainly does not work in tandem. We never know what these characters are feeling or thinking but only what they are doing in response to the ever changing present circumstance with no regard to the consequences. Grieving is an important subject to explore, especially in young adults who are effected all too often in this day and age. So the creative team just needs to dig a bit deeper, put some heart and soul into the characters and understand what it means to heal themselves so they can help those around them.