June 3, 2014
Pieces is a new musical currently running as part of the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity. It’s an ambitious work co-created by Kristen Penner and Lorelei Mackenzie (with additional music by Joni Ernst) that has been in development for a few years. Pieces tackles the complex subject of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. It’s an atypical subject for a musical, which presents a number of challenges, both in concept and performance. It works, for the most part.
The show follows the experience of Tabby as she discovers and deals with the fact that she has DID. The facets of her personality are represented by six additional performers (Sonia Hebe Acosta, Nathan Armstrong, Melissa D’Anna, Mackenzie, and Sarah Ann Vail). This allows for consistently strong ensemble numbers throughout the show, as well as showcasing individuals in turn. Particular standouts in the ensemble include Vail as the ferocious Wolf and D’Anna as the innocent Molly. While the ensemble are strong singers, the music is often disjointed and, at times, atonal. It seems to be a deliberate choice by the creators to reflect the turmoil Tabby is going through. Unfortunately, it tends to become distracting and even discordant.
Director Nick Radu has his hands full with the show and keeps the action moving steadily, in spite of the limitations of the performance venue. A show this size needs more room that it has at the Paradise Factory Theatre. It’s a credit to Radu and the cast that they manage to make it work so well within the confines of the space.
While the show is genuinely moving in moments, the second act needs to be reworked. Currently, the show has two false endings – one at the end of the first act and the other midway through the second act. Given that some of the darkest material is tackled during the second act, this doesn’t help the flow of the show at all. Pieces has real promise, but it still needs to find its balance before it can really sing.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Kelly Johnston