I think we’ve all harbored fantasies of chucking it all when we were unhappy with our circumstances, when life handed us lemons and we were unable to make lemonade. But I’m not sure how many of us would take the step that Griffin Matthews did in 2005. Faced with a lack of acting jobs and a cold shoulder from his church when he came out, Griffin decided to volunteer in Uganda. Whatever his impetus, we (as well as Ugandan teenagers) are the beneficiaries as Griffin took his experiences and wrote a witty, wry and wonderful musical.
The play opens in New York City as Griffin (who is black) and his white, Jewish boyfriend try to figure out what to do with their lives. When Ryan (the boyfriend) notes that volunteering in Uganda seems a bit drastic, Griffin notes that he is more afraid of the South Bronx. So off to Africa he goes, where he finds himself in a compound run by an unseen but powerful pastor. Griffin lives with Jacob, who wants more from life, and his practical sister. One day Griffin has an encounter with four local teenagers, who he begins to teach in an abandoned library. Jacob joins the group, Ryan heads to Uganda and the seven of them forge a relationship based on misconceptions, hope, fear and love.
The scenes both in NYC and Africa are filled with observations on how the Ugandan teenagers are viewed by privileged black and white people, how gay people are viewed by the Ugandans and how putting ourselves out there can make a difference. All the actors are treasures (Melody Betts brings the house down with her voice) and Matt Gould (Griffin’s real-life partner) leads a great sounding band. The thread may be invisible but this musical should definitely be seen. AFW
The Invisible Thread, 2econd Stage Theatre, 305 W 43 Street
Discounts: Theatermania & Broadway Box and to subscribers
Running Time: 2 hours including 15 minute intermission
Through December 27