Tragedy on “Spring Street”

David Beck and Giordan Diaz in the new web series “Spring Street.” | SPRINGSTREETSERIES.COM

“Spring Street,” a new web series about love, addiction, and music — produced by the Great Griffon, a LGBTQ nonprofit that seeks to shatter queer stereotypes through theater and film — just wrapped up its first season earlier this month.

Named after the subway station on the MTA’s number 6 line, “Spring Street” is the story of Christopher (director David Beck), a gay pianist and instructor who is mourning the loss of his mentor and grandmother Maggie, or Grammy (Rosina Fernhoff). He mourns in bed, he mourns in the shower, and then he mourns some more during one of his lessons (shout out to the piano student, played by Phoenix Williams, a funny scene-stealer who gave me false hope of this show’s dark comic potential). If this description seems tiring, be warned.

Fortunately for the viewer, this sobfest is cut short with the arrival of Christopher’s sister Anna (Alanna Blair), a former junkie, who shows up to his apartment six months pregnant. The two don’t seem to like each other: he thinks she is a drug-addicted screw-up, she thinks he’s a failed artist. I think both of them are right. Their differences aside, Christopher allows Anna to stay with him — seemingly so the two can continue to bombard each other with insults over the course of the series.

New web series aims to tackle love, addiction, and music

Pair the arrival of Anna with a mysterious new student Ricardo (Giordan Diaz), a young man who offers blowjobs in exchange for piano lessons, and suddenly Christopher seems to have his hands full. This too seemed like a missed opportunity for comedy, instead played as the most awkward piano lesson imaginable.

All of this makes for an interesting enough premise, but unfortunately on “Spring Street” that’s as good as it gets. Over the next couple episodes we meet the cast of characters, all of whom are somehow related to the mysterious passing of Chris’ grandmother. Which presents the series’ first big problem: Grammy’s death.

Everyone knows she has passed away, but only the viewer is clued in that there were signs of foul play involved. Her two grandchildren seem blissfully unaware — and, if anything, are more upset about their lack of inheritance than her actual passing. At one point Christopher goes so far as calling her a drunk who killed herself.

Another problem with the series is its racial tone. For a show that boasts a “unique blend of LGBTQI and ethnic groups, reflecting New York’s diversity,” I couldn’t help noticing that its characters were dated and clichéd — and not in any constructive kind of way. Christopher and Anna, the show’s (white) lead characters, come off as the unlikeable victims of problems that seem to stem from a group of Latinx thugs — Ricardo, Manny (Michael Earl Fajardo), and Sergio (Luis Villalobos) — who make up the bulk of the secondary characters.

Finally, “Spring Street” is premised on a music storyline, but it sure makes music seem like a chore. In the opening episode, Christopher instructs a student on the proper way to play Chopin, saying, “It’s Chopin, you have to sing it.” The student immediately shuts Christopher down, saying that Chopin is in fact a “kill-joy.” The exchange is the first in a series of unfortunately pretentious classical musical references that the creators beat over the head of the viewer.

Six episodes in, Christopher and Anna still have no idea that something is amiss regarding their grandmother’s death, while the viewer has a pretty clear picture of what is going on. This plays out not so much as a mystery than as dramatic irony. Christopher becomes infatuated with his new student, and Anna takes to writing about her journey through pregnancy and sobriety. Characters continue to make questionable — though predictable — choices, with the exception of Ricardo, who, even though driven by dubious means, seems to develop the furthest.

“Spring Street” seems to have trouble knowing what it wants to be. The series suffers from a sterile detachment, both in its characters and in the production itself. The result is that it feels less like a labor of love than an exercise of endurance.

As for the fate of Grammy, well, I will let you watch that and decide for yourself if “Spring Street” is a stop you want to get off at.

SPRING STREET | Directed by David Beck | Streaming at springstreetseries.com

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