The narrative is so credible one wonders if there are autobiographical elements to In Pieces. Set in New York City, the show portrays the transitory nature of living in the Big Apple, particularly for an age group whose lives often end up being vastly different to whatever plans they may have previously set out – assuming, of course, they had firm plans for the future in the first place. These characters come across as the sort of people who might just struggle ever so slightly with the dreaded interview question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
This is a series of love stories, and it becomes clear that, as Tennyson put it, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. There are times when there are lessons learned from whatever went on before, and these younger characters are working through a wide range of deep emotions. With so many characters with their own stories to tell, it’s easy to draw a comparison between this show and Love Actually, though it is another Richard Curtis movie, About Time, that suits the storyline better, if only for its conclusion, in which it is decided that life is best lived one day at a time without too much fretting over – well, anything.
The younger generation is likely to find some familiarity with, for instance, Jael’s (Beccy Lane) grappling with whether it is appropriate to add her love interest as a friend on Facebook, or the fear Austyn (Kyle Birch) faces whenever he meets a special someone with whom he’d like to (spoiler alert) start a relationship with, such that he doesn’t say what he would like to say. The musical is entirely sung-through, and there are so many ‘I wish’ numbers in succession as various characters make their intentions known that it comes as a blessed relief when actual events start happening in people’s lives, even if it doesn’t turn out for the better.
But the familiarity that the stories and the overarching theme of love that manifest in the show can make the production feel rather generic, a factor amplified by the use of a non-specific every-place (to borrow a term from the satirical musical revue Forbidden Broadway) American town square which somehow includes a branch of Costa Coffee. (There are no Costa Coffee shops in the USA, only ‘Smart Café’ machines, which in the UK are called ‘Costa Express’ machines. And yes, I did look that up.) Even one of the songs is called ‘Another New York Love Story’ – make of that what you will.
Character progression and development is often vague in what is more of a song cycle than a musical. The lyrics consistently draw out storylines without, strictly speaking, the need for any of the scenery or visual touches included in this production – it could be done in concert format, scenery-free. If the plotlines feel rather messy and conflicted, it only serves to underpin how complex the imponderables of people’s love lives can be. The choreography is vibrant and enthusiastic, appropriate for the age profile of the characters. Emotionally charged, this is a surprisingly pleasant and sincere production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Our love lives are constantly in pieces. Shifting in and out of feeling fully complete. But you never know how a single spark one day can unlock a new you, so we make a choice at the crossroad, we say yes to the coffee date, and wherever that leads, we learn to embrace the journey.
Originally presented at Lincoln Center the new musical threads Contreras’ musical theatre and pop catalogue into a theatrical setting, exploring the universal search for clarity and empowerment through different kinds of relationships.
In Pieces is directed by Louis Rayneau, and stars Kyle Birch (Austyn), Amy Di Bartolomeo (Alex), Hiba Elchikhe (Sam), Jordan Luke Gage (Grey), Ross Harmon (Charlie), Beccy Lane (Jael), Danielle Steers (River), and Luke Street (Hunter), with Erin Bell, Millie Cranston, Jack Dargan, Megan Cerys Holland, Rhianna Richards, and Jason Leigh Winter as the ensemble.
Assistant Director is Steph Parry, choreography is by Rachel Sargent, Edward Court is Musical Director, and Fabio Santos is Videographer, with Sound Design by Zachary Woodman.