The writer and director, Jimmy Maize, tried to weave together three plot lines, each more earnest than the other. One is about Marion (Molly McAdoo), who’s researching Annie Moore, the first passenger to be processed at Ellis Island, for a PBS documentary. Another is about Wes (Esaú Mora), a neurotic gay man, plagued by dreams about Lewis and Clark, who embarks on a road trip with his boyfriend (Renaldy Smith); his meltdown in the Rockies feels like a Woody Allen movie scene about a city guy’s freaking out at the sight of nature.
Finally, we follow Cather (Luke Zimmerman), dressed like a pioneer in a Thom Browne catalog, and Antonia (Ayana Workman) — nods to Willa Cather and her novel “My Ántonia,” with a dash of gender-bending on the prairie as the writer interacts with his creation.
The three strands appear to interconnect, albeit in mysterious ways. At one point, Marion and Antonia engage in a romantic-looking pas de deux (the choreography is by Wendy Seyb), but we were so far from the action that I could barely see the dance. By that time the audience, which roams as much as the cast, was sitting on the amphitheater-like steps, atop a grand staircase, while the ensemble was all the way down in the atrium. This at least made for some occasionally striking abstract visuals.
Most frustrating, however, was the inability to hear the choir, made up of members of the Downtown Voices and the Mama Foundation’s Wednesday Sings choirs. With any luck, the sound issues will be fixed in subsequent performances, but on Thursday evening, the singers were barely audible, making it hard to weigh in on Heather Christian’s gentle score; you can get a better sense of it from the production’s teaser video on YouTube.
At times, though, the very faintness of the voices had an oddly beautiful ghostly effect. Perhaps in an unintentional nod to our hardscrabble predecessors, the show works best if you make the most of a tough situation.