In a theatre landscape filled with diverse theatre offerings, the Infinity Repertory Theatre Company from New York is something of a surprise. A company featuring and run by young people, its mission is to promote musical theatre in the community. Dark Heart, a new work by teenager Jessica Avellino, ploughs straight into the challenging subject of teen suicide, exploring the nature of the beast through the psyche of the deeply disturbed Emma.
Avellino’s book explores the voices in Emma’s head while introducing a well-meaning psychiatrist who attempts to get Emma to open up. It’s all very well-meaning but suffers from stodgy dialogue, and a rather textbook redemptive ending. What raises the bar is the music and the performances. Avellino’s score is both contemporary and catchy, capturing the mood of the piece without resorting to stereotypical lyric patterns or musical phrasing.
The cast bursts into life with Avellino’s songs and while the accomplished choral numbers create atmosphere, the soloists are exceptional. Jessica Umanoff as Emma and particularly Rachel Wurzburger as Alise interpret Avellino’s score with remarkable talent and maturity. Andrew Perez’ direction is too simplistic, occasionally looking more like a music video than a dramatic staging, and the book results in some slightly over earnest acting from the otherwise talented young cast.