Theater / Film

Review: True Mirage’s original ‘Songs from the Brink’ charts time in life transition

Written By Christine Dolen
March 14, 2023 at 9:11 AM

From left, Lauren C. Lopez, Eliasess Leon, Raul Andres Ramirez and Darcy Hernandez-Gil in True Mirage Theater’s “Songs from the Brink” at Main Street Playhouse, Miami Lakes, through Sunday, March 19. (Photo courtesy of Sara Jarrell-Quevedo)

The angst, hopes and life experiences of Millennials are at the heart of “Songs from the Brink,” a song cycle by Robyn Eli Brenner and Mackenzie Anderson.

Now getting its world premiere by Miami’s True Mirage Theater, the hour-long piece is being performed on weekends through Sunday, March 19 at Main Street Playhouse in Miami Lakes.

The not-for-profit company, True Mirage, was started in 2017 by New World School of the Arts grads Daniel Gil and Darcy Hernandez-Gil to present “relevant and invigorating” works reflective of issues in South Florida. Its other mission is to empower emerging South Florida artists by workshopping and producing original works.

From left, Raul Andres Ramirez, Lauren C. Lopez, Eliasess Leon and Darcy Hernandez-Gil urge the audience to take chances in “Just Jump” in True Mirage’s “On the Brink.” (Photo courtesy of Sara Jarrell-Quevedo)

What that all translates to in the case of “Songs from the Brink” is an exploration of the challenges faced by people in their 20s as they move from their student years into full-fledged adulthood.  Relationships (flawed, doomed, longed-for), depression, uncertainty about how to build a fulfilling life, finding the courage to take chances:  They’re all on the topically grouped menu of the 11-song show.

Instead of a musical theater book, each of the four-song segments is set up with the recitation of a thematically related poem.

Emily Dickinson’s lyric poem “Hope is the thing with feathers” sets the tone for the title song.  A.E. Houseman’s  “He Would Not Stay for Me” speaks to the breakup/bad romance section “The Other Person.” “Tears, Idle Tears” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson comes before “The Inner,” songs about mental and emotional struggles.  Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poem “Courage” kicks off the final section titled “The Leap,” about summoning the courage to take chances.

Brenner and Anderson, dually credited with music and lyrics, are talented at both.  Brenner wrote his material while working as an actor in South Florida, and Anderson is a performer and musical theater writer based here.  Their lyrics are insightful, their music pop-theatrical in a way that would fit into many a regional theater.

Directed by Francesca Toledo on a black-box stage with little more than four chairs, microphones, a keyboard for musical director Nicole Odreman and an easel to display the section titles by graffiti artist Dex One, how the show comes across is clearly dependent on the vocal and dramatic talents of its singers:  Lauren C. Lopez as Woman 1, Eliasess Leon as Man 1, Hernandez-Gil as Woman 2 and Raul Andres Ramirez as Man 2.

Clockwise from left, Darcy Hernandez-Gil, Raul Andres Ramirez, Eliasess Leon and Lauren C. Lopez navigate young adulthood in “Songs from the Brink.” (Photo courtesy of Sara Jarrell-Quevedo)

Initially, when they sing solos or solo passages in duets, the performers sound almost reticent, as though they’re nervous about telling a musical story all by themselves.  But when they sing together, they make magic. The vocal arrangements are lush and just right for the style of Brenner and Anderson’s music. And that support from their fellow actors seems to fuel confidence, strengthening those moments when a singer is alone in the spotlight.

“What the Hell Is Wrong With You” is an ironic number sung by Lopez and Ramirez, who rhapsodize about having found the one and then negate their good fortune by musing that something has to be wrong with someone so seemingly perfect.

Hernandez-Gil sings a haunting song of intimate betrayal in “Bad Sex,” while Lopez is bereft over her ex in “Somewhere in the Dent.”  In a group therapy setting, the folky Ramirez wryly muses about “What It Means to Be a Man.”  Leon conveys a still newfound confidence in “At Least.”

Together, in “This Isn’t It,” the cast makes a collective declaration: It’s time to get unstuck, take chances, reach for a future.  That’s what True Mirage is doing in “Songs from the Brink,” which is worth a look and a listen.

WHAT: True Mirage Theater world premiere of “Songs from the Brink” by Robyn Eli Brenner and Mackenzie Anderson

WHERE: Main Street Playhouse, 6812 Main St., Miami Lakes

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through March 19

COST:  $35, $30 for students and seniors

INFORMATION: 786-484-4711 or truemiragetheater.com

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