“My vibe is cozy, comfy,” the R&B musician Josiah Smart, professionally often known as serpentwithfeet, says close to the beginning of “Coronary heart of Brick.” Coated in a fuzzy blanket, sipping a glass of wine, he tells us that he prefers to remain at dwelling.
It’s an uncommon introduction for a present in a theater. However “Coronary heart of Brick,” which had its premiere on the Joyce Theater in Manhattan on Friday, is an uncommon manufacturing. It’s considerably like a staged live performance of songs from Smart’s newest album, “GRIP,” which he performs stay to recorded tracks. Nevertheless it’s additionally like an 80-minute jukebox musical during which he stars as a model of himself, the songs threaded with scenes of dialogue heard in voice-over whereas he and the opposite performers silently act and dance.
The story is good and slight. Having made a confidante of the gang, Smart will get up the braveness to go to a nightclub the place he has heard his ex-boyfriend is perhaps exhibiting up. The ex-boyfriend would possibly as nicely be named MacGuffin, since he isn’t talked about once more. As a substitute, Smart meets Brick (Dylan M. Contreras), one of many homeowners of the membership, and the 2 fall for one another instantly. Will the affair final? Is Brick a heartbreaker?
These are the dramatic questions.
Whereas the format takes some getting used to, it focuses the perspective. Smart — the one one speaking and singing to us instantly, the one one holding a microphone — is telling us his story. The songs, which he delivers in a delicate, tremulous tenor, specific his emotions of romantic hope and vulnerability. The dialogue, by Smart and Donte Collins in collaboration with the opposite performers, is naturalistic and conversational, not too delicate or shaded. A barely catty clique of 5 clubgoers provides a bit comedian aid, however between jokes and what Smart calls “coronary heart stuff,” coronary heart stuff predominates.
Directed by Wu Tsang, the manufacturing is generally clear and economical. Carlos Soto’s set design suggests location modifications between the membership and Smart’s condominium with little greater than curtains and rails. Costumes (by Julio Delgado) and lighting (by Luke Rolls) are additionally largely understated.
So, too, is the choreography by Raja Feather Kelly. The clubgoers slink and ripple in fluid patterns and florid armwork, sometimes stretching a leg impressively towards the ceiling, hinging backward to the ground or unspooling a number of spins. However nevertheless sinuous, they’re caught within the position of backup dancers to serpentwithfeet.
Smart’s songs don’t advance the narrative or deepen perception into the characters, and several other of the dialogue-to-song transitions are clunky. However largely, the present is a comfy, comfy expertise, concerning the gradual rewards of romance somewhat than intercourse; the lovers spoon however don’t even kiss.
Cozy and cozy, that’s, till Darius — the drunk shaman performed by Justin Daniels — arrives, posing riddles and warning about poisoned crops. The clubgoers, now wearing floral ruffles to embody the crops, entangle Brick, who collapses in a coma. To save lots of him, Smart should go on a quest for a mystical flower.
This is perhaps a swerve into allegory, the poisoned crops symbolizing gossip (which the present additionally represents, amusingly, within the type of information reviews). It is perhaps a dream ballet. It’s actually an try to heighten the drama of intimacy points. Not unusual sufficient to interrupt into the realm of the surreal, it lifts off awkwardly, as on the finish of his quest Smart makes an underpowered leap into the sunshine.
That swerve is a dangerous transfer that fails, however the true worth of “Coronary heart of Brick” lies in its easy portrayal of affection between two males and in Smart’s affectionate celebration of Black homosexual golf equipment. It’s a fuzzy blanket of a present.
“Coronary heart of Brick”
By Saturday on the Joyce Theater; joyce.org.