NY Theatre Guide Review: Heroic, Big-Hearted and Finely-Detailed

Posted By: Jacquelyn Claireon: August 23, 2016

“Held” is a magnificent musical fantasy from Kelly Maxwell (Book & Lyrics) and Meghan Rose (Music), which takes place in another world–one also beset with unrequited love and impossible love triangles.

. . .heroic, big-hearted, and finely detailed. . .

When we meet our trio of the lost and lovelorn, they are trapped in a magical cell by the “blood wizard” and are unable to escape. Here in this confined space they will have to confront and dissect their relationships, which have been formed since early childhood. Korin (Hannah Ripp-Dieter) is from the dreamer clan, able to allow you to feel every dream viscerally. Her talents allow abundance and joy to flourish as long as she is putting darker emotions away in a dark, cold room. Mera (Katie Bakalars) is from the warrior clan, and her explosive temperament suits her passion for the military. Bardo (Alex Van Handel) is the baker, a nurturer who wants to bring peace and connection between the three.

Bardo Loves Korin, who loves Mera, who loves Bardo. It’s a kind of purgatory for all three, a sort of Sartre-esque “No Exit” until you can confront your own truth and speak it to your loved ones. With any great magical realism story, the clever metaphors are present to provide insight into our 21st-century earthbound lives.

There is an urgency in the story as the world outside the “prison” is dying, and they are helpless to affect any change. The only way to exit is if Korin is killed, and that is not a solution any of them are willing to contemplate. Maxwell has crafted a layered play which explores the dynamic of longtime friendships that don’t know how to evolve with the next stages of their lives. It gets right to the heart of the situation and presses all of our emotional buttons.

The music transports you to this other land on a score of beautiful harmonies and sad refrains that seem to make you miss people that you have never met. Meghan Rose is at the helm of the stage band, seated at the piano, with Jake Ripp-Dieter on bass and Kristine Kruta on cello, creating this soundscape of soaring ballads and moving trios.

All three singer/actors are triple threat performers with gorgeous voices and have created great characters. Handel as the gentle baker is our ardent and persevering good guy, but with a presence that anchors the heightened emotions of the two women on the war path. He is an extraordinary actor able to portray complex emotions, laying himself open and vulnerable–such a great trait for a young performer.

Bakalars is a mighty force on stage–big voice, powerful physicality, and exceptional focus. She was equal parts erupting, rage-monger and sensitive, love-stricken lover.

Ripp-Dieter was the adroit alpha female, commanding the stage with self-confident inner fire. She has a voice that wakes up old regrets, nostalgia, and forgotten crushes. She is a formidable performer channeling her energy into a character that is like both easy flowing water and scalding desert sun.

Director S.C. Lucier has shaped a heroic, big-hearted, and finely detailed mighty musical fable drenched in clear vision and perfectly executed staging. It’s a tight, well-polished, professional work that speaks of a successful rehearsal period where excellence was aimed for and achieved. Suzanne Ponomarenko’s choreography was clever, with no extraneous moves–everything was distilled to the essential gesture and physical expression, which was deeply satisfying to see.

I left this show feeling a little sad, looking for a bit of rainfall to match my melancholic mood, and I kept repeating to my husband–“That was just beautiful!”