January 11, 2015

A glamorously tarnished rock goddess, Courtney Love, plays an elusive muse named after the deity Athena in Kansas City Choir Boy, a music-theater piece by Todd Almond being presented as part of the Prototype festival of new opera and musical theater. Ms. Love, looking trim and intense, her long blond hair caught in a tangled ponytail, portrays the onetime love of a dream-bound musician in Mr. Almond’s dramatically blurry but musically inviting work, which is being presented in a small underground space at HERE Arts Center. Mr. Almond, who wrote the music and lyrics (there is no traditional “book” to speak of), plays the other primary character, a broody composer looking back on his turbulent relationship with Ms. Love’s Athena, whose presence flits in and out of his imagination as he sits alone in Kansas City attempting to compose music, presumably in her tribute. As the show opens, we find this unnamed character — he’s referred to by a titular epithet in the text — noodling away on his computer, headphones clamped on, the world around him banished. Suddenly he’s distracted by an image on the old television buzzing in the room. “Local Girl Found Dead” runs the headline, accompanied by a photo of Ms. Love. Stunned, he flashes back to his tempestuous youthful relationship with Athena, which began when they were teenagers and ended abruptly, leaving him with scalding memories and a wound in his heart that’s reopened when he learns of her mysterious death in faraway New York. The story — what little there is of it — comes through only in crude outline; Mr. Almond’s songs, which range from electronic pseudo-disco to moody, graceful guitar-driven ballads and duets, carry the weight of the slender narrative, or at least provide enough minimal detail for us to follow the basic contours: the time-tested boy-loves-girl, boy-loses-girl thing.