“Maybe no one’s ever gone,” sings the cast of “Triangle,” a new musical receiving its premiere this week at Lyric at the Plaza. It’s a sentiment that offers a glimmer of hope to the people who lost loved ones in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
Part of Lyric Theatre’s commitment to the staging of new works, “Triangle” features music by Curtis Moore and lyrics by Thomas Mizer. Their story alternates between 1911 and 2011, a device that allows the show’s characters to create connections through time.
For anyone who lived through the 1995 Murrah Building bombing, this piece takes on even greater resonance. And while the musical’s setting might seem emotionally harrowing, it’s simply the framework for parallel love stories that unfold a century apart.
Brian (Adam Halpin) is a doctoral student in chemistry who meets Ben (Dallas Lish), a young man researching the 1911 fire. Lish also plays Vincenzo, the Triangle Factory foreman who finds himself drawn to Sarah, a Jewish seamstress (Megan McGinnis).
Societal norms prevent the 1911 characters from establishing a meaningful relationship, while a century later, Brian’s family issues inhibit him from seeking a similar connection. Both illustrate the obstacles people face in their pursuit of love.
Sarah works side by side with Theresa (Jennifer Teel), a confident young woman who also happens to be Vincenzo’s sister. Sarah is relieved that her income will help provide for her pregnant sister Chaya (Sharon Rietkerk) but is reluctant to work on the Sabbath.
The factory boss (Adam Heller) is an uncompromising bigot whose only concern is meeting quotas. Rietkerk also doubles as Brian’s sarcastic colleague Cynthia, and Teel alternates as their boss Dr. Zimmerman.
Mizer’s deft lyrics (“This is America, the way I saw it in a dream, from seam to shining seam”) and Moore’s sophisticated score yield many humorous and touching moments, the former evident when Chaya brings home a Christmas ornament and the sisters convince themselves that such a blatant religious offense will draw their father’s ire.
There’s also real emotion in Brian’s musings about whether love can be real or just a dumb cliche. Also touching is Sarah’s struggle to find the right words to convey her feelings for Ben. Later, he searches for similar answers in a heartrending scene at the synagogue.
It’s hard to imagine a stronger, more capable cast than that assembled here. Their splendid voices receive fine musical support from conductor James Sampliner and his offstage orchestra.
Adam Koch’s spare but evocative set effectively puts the audience in lower Manhattan, while Michael Baron’s expert direction allows the production’s considerable emotional range to work its magic.
With its compelling story and attractive score, “Triangle” seems destined to have a promising future. Thanks to the commitment and talent of people like Moore, Mizer and Baron, such prospects will surely be realized.
— Rick Rogers, for The Oklahoman
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday (A1-5)
Where: Lyric at the Plaza, 1725 NW 16
Information: 524-9312 or www.lyrictheatreokc.com