By Holli Harms
Triplight at Joe’s Pub starts with a cruise down memory lane as the performers sing about the ’90s in New York City when The Palladium existed and the streets and neighborhoods had grit and edge. When music was live and everyone was attempting the mastery of it. When there was a mix of grunge and rock and roll and bands were starting every hour of every day. When women fronted bands that were angry and reverent. A walk I welcomed with open arms and so did many of my fellow audience members. There were some, who clearly due to age and no fault of their own, had not a clue of any of the references, but they listened and learned and you could tell googling and discovering would happen right after curtain.
So the set up for the evening is big and exciting and ready.
The opening “number” ends and we join a radio talk show host from that era who is himself in a place of remembrance as he contemplates this day, this very day which is the 20th anniversary of the day Willow Spark and her band Triplight disappeared. Triplight was a band on the brink of stardom. They were the band who would dethrone Nirvana and Hole, The Lemonheads and The Cranberries and all those 90’s bands who held court. Triplight was to be the new 90’s sensation, but then they literally disappeared. The radio host puts out the question to his listening audience, “Do you think Willow Spark is still alive?” There are callers who do and some with conspiracy theories and then the call to end all calls, the call from Willow Spark ( Kristen Sieh ) herself. They start talking, radio host and Willow, and through this on-air conversation, the story of the meeting of Willow and the band known as Triplight and the creation of their sound unfolds.
Something happened this night 20 years ago that stopped her from living and creating as an artist. Something that took away her identity. She is alive but stuck in a single track as one of the forgotten citizens in New York. “Half flesh, half air, a living ghost.” “Your life can change in an instant. Look for second chances.” And tonight and this radio host is her second chance, but will she take it?
The band on stage are the ghosts of Triplight and “Tonight would take us to tomorrow.”
They sing and talk their way through the story of that night and the story of a possible future and a wonderful past and it is all entertaining and the cast accomplished musicians and singers. And one song, Wyoming, stands out and I was smiling and enjoying, but ultimately the songs are not 90’s Rock compositions. They are musical theatre compositions and that is not where the story says it is. This production was musical theater, and really good musical theater, but not 90’s rock and roll. There is a moment on stage with a ukulele and Oasis’s Wonderwall that kicks it and reminds us what we are not hearing.
I am not saying I didn’t like the show. It was an evening at Joe’s Pub that started with that a great opening number and Wyoming, a damn good song on its own, and the consummate Kristen Sieh was terrific as Willow Spark and but well you know…
Willow has come out to the edge and contemplates the final jump. She says,” We all like to believe we’re special. In reality, we are just a cosmic blip.” Coming out and standing on the edge, we’ve been there.
What the play did was, I went home and pulled out my Hole cassette, yes cassette, and listened, and tuned into The Cranberries online and listened, and they took me on a walk littered with a great many memories.
Triplight Joe’s Pub
Thursday, May 30 – Tuesday, June 4
Ticket Price: $20.00 – $30.00 with $12 food minimum
May 30 & 31, June 2-4
Doors at 6PM
Show at 7PM
Running Time: 70 minutes
Starring: Kristen Sieh (May 30-June 3) & Jocelyn MacKenzie (June 4)
Featuring: Tony Torn, Maya Sharpe, Jake Roa, Titus Tompkins, Caitlin Cobb-Vialet, Angel Lin, Gabrielle Cuadra, Guillermo Contreras
Book & Lyrics by Alexandra Collier, Music & Lyrics by Greta Gertler Gold, Directed by Mia Rovegno, Produced by Laura Been, Design by Kate Freer, Costumes by Whitney Locher, Movement by Katie Rose McLaughlin, Music Direction by JoAnne Harris
Assistant Music Direction by Lucas Elijah Friedman