What do a 19th century writer, a successful Broadway composer, and a closeted young man in rural Missouri have in common? Secrets, sacrifice, and an undying love of the mermaid.
In an age where we’d rather sing along with the chorus than acknowledge the composer, La Voce to Me brings together four burdened lives to create a story of redemption.
In 1837, Hans Christian Anderson (played by delightfully quirky George Anthony Tralka Jr.) wroteThe Little Mermaid, the fairytale of star-crossed love and struggle. In 1986, Howard Ashman (Brendan O’Connell) collaborated to compose the score for Disney’s Little Mermaid. Both of these men were gay, and both of these men suffered greatly in silence for it.
The piece is told in the round, each of the characters shuffling across the sparse but solid space, addressing the audience directly while offering pieces of their respective journeys bit by bit. These journeys prove to be tales of the burdened mermaid in all of his or her forms.
“Hey America,” Ashman proclaims while recounting the Disney creation process and subsequent success, “A faggot is the one telling your children fairytales! You listen to our tales, but never our stories.” A stark contrast to the cheer of Disney, the stories of Ashman’s stories were of sorrow, told as a member of a community ravaged by AIDS.
La Voce to Me
by Jeremy Pace
at Goethe Institut
812 7th Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
The mermaid (Natalie Ann Piegari) narrates her own tale, which veers violently from the celebrated cartoon version many of us remember. They’re all sirens of pain and self-love, eventually turning their separate melodies into a song.
La Voce is rough around the edges. The piece sometimes drags when it should be sprinting, and sulks when it could be defying. It’s heavy. But these are growing pains. What La Voce lacks in polish, it makes up for in heart. An inspired concept, a script which often bursts with insight and honesty, and a reminder that there are such things as happy endings. We just need to write them, speak them, sing them for ourselves.