Dancers in masks performed in blacklight to create a subconscious world in "Sound Sydrome: SoHo Heartbreaker."
Christian Gnecco-Quintero and Miki Michelle play Marc and Leona, a couple that splits up over an affair that Marc has been having with Leona's best friend.
For his off-Broadway debut, playwright and director Walter Tucker said that “Sound Syndrome: SoHo Heartbreaker” is a “great beginning.”
With a cast of multi-talented actors and dancers and a set and costume design that turns a minimal space into two entirely different worlds, it is easy to see why he feels that way.
“Sound Syndrome” is a futuristic love story, full of deceit and heartbreak, mixed in with a dystopian medical mystery. The play opens up on the main character, Leona Arnold (played by Miki Michelle), apprehensively discussing her wedding plans with her mother.
Shortly thereafter, we find out why she is starting to get cold feet when we meet her fiancée, Marc Bell (played by Christian Gnecco-Quintero), and the two immediately erupt into a fight. Marc reveals that he has been sleeping with Leona’s best friend, Alva (played by Paige Kresge), and calls off the wedding.
At this point, a distraught Leona sinks into a couch and becomes unresponsive. So begins the main plotline of “Sound Syndrome,” where Marc and Alva must work together to figure out what is wrong with Leona and how to pull her out of a potentially life-threatening coma.
On the other side of things, Leona enters a sub-conscious universe consisting entirely of music and dance. Five dancers, including the talented Michelle, enrapture the audience with mesmerizing dancing that artfully tells the story of what is going on in Leona’s head without the use of words.
The play follows as Marc and Alva race the clock to wake up Leona, and as Leona explores her own mind to figure out some deeper secrets of her past that may be affecting her present.
All of the music is composed by Tucker, who also wrote the play and directed its production. Originally a musician, Tucker said that with “Sound Syndrome,” he wanted to expand the platforms he was using in his art.
“Earlier this year, I said I wanted to do something different,” Tucker said. “I wanted to do something to merge the traditional acting world with my music.”
Tucker’s strengths certainly lie in his music — the combination of his original music, which has a techno and hip-hop feel, the choreography by Tucker and Aurelia Michael and the talent of the five dancers on stage creates a world that is both entertaining and engaging. Dressed in neon masks with a black light, the dancers feel almost too close for comfort at some points, a feeling that Tucker said he was going for.
“It’s really hard to give a big-show effect in a small theater, and that’s what we wanted to go for,” he said.
Michelle, playing Leona, is flawless as the lead dancer, where most of her experience lies. Michelle traveled with iLuminate, a show that mixes dancing and technology, using wireless lighting, for an illuminated dance performance.
Tucker explained that, while he has focused mostly on music during his career, he has always seen himself as a storyteller. Each of his songs, he said, is “like a three-minute movie.” With “Sound Syndrome,” he wanted to take a shot at combining his writing with his passion for music.
He has had a lot to learn since undertaking that challenge, he said, especially as a director, but it has been enjoyable.
“It’s still a transition, and I love it,” he said.
With his off-Broadway debut underway, it appears that the transition is going just fine. And “Sound Syndrome,” at its heart, has a simple but powerful message that everyone in the audience can relate to.
“It’s really about watching what you say to people and watching how you treat people, because you don’t know if you’ll be able to say anything to them again,” he said.
With characters that are both relatable and infuriating, particularly cheating fiancée Marc, Tucker shares this lesson through a love story that is anything but traditional.
With two weeks left in its debut run, Tucker already has plans brewing for the show in the future. First, he said, he would like to bring the performance to Williamsburg or Long Island City in the spring to get more feedback after adding some tweaks.
“I think they would be really receptive to the music and the experimental aspect of the show,” Tucker said.
Eventually, the goal is to bring the show to Manhattan, so it can be performed near its own set location of SoHo.
“Sound Syndrome: SoHo Heartbreaker” will have four more shows in its debut run at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX). Shows are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through Sept. 27. For more information, check out www.GetSoundSyndrome.com.