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In 2005, an actor named Griffin Matthews volunteered to work at an orphanage in Uganda and returned home to start his own charitable organization. The writer-performer drew on that episode in his life for “Invisible Thread” (called “Witness Uganda” when it was done at the American Repertory Theater), a musical he wrote with his partner, Matt Gould. But despite the heavy drumming, the show isn’t really about Uganda or African orphans or African anything. It’s about Griffin Matthews.

It can’t be said that the writer, who plays the leading role himself, doesn’t warn us. “My name is Griffin and this is my story,” he says, right at the top of the show, which has been busily and loudly directed at Second Stage Theater by Diane Paulus (“Finding Neverland,” “Pippin”).

Essentially, Griffin’s story has to do with being shunned by his church for coming out as gay — that, and being unable to find decent acting roles. And since his partner, Ryan (Corey Mach), is busy with his own “existential crisis as an artist,” this seems like a good time to get out of town.

Once in Uganda, set designer Tom Pye and costumer ESosa go wild with colorful “African” fabrics, while choreographer Sergio Trujillo (who must be exhausted after “On Your Feet!”) puts his dancers through life-threatening feats of “African” dancing and lighting designer Justin Townsend saturates the village with color. And let’s not even get into the incessant drumming.

At first, the “invisible threads” of the title are the ones that keep Griffin connected to Ryan, so far away back home. In time, they come to mean the bonds Griffin feels for the teenagers who become his pupils. Eventually, they seem to represent the bonds of humanity we all share. It’s a pretty conceit, but a thin concept for a musical.

To create some kind of dramatic complications, Griffin unwittingly betrays a young man named Jacob (Michael Luwoye) who loves him and expects to return with him to New York. (That situation gets sticky when Ryan unexpectedly arrives in the village.) But the only person with any kind of sense in this show is Jacob’s sister, Joy (played with a bit of grit by Adeola Role), who tries to wise up Griffin to the political realities of life in Uganda.

That seed of enlightenment isn’t developed because it distracts from Griffin’s more compelling objective in working in Africa: “I want to feel good about my life.”  Eventually he does feel good about what he’s become — good enough to write a musical for and about and with himself.

And you thought charity was supposed to be selfless.

Off Broadway Review: ‘Invisible Thread’

Second Stage Theater; 296 seats; $84 top. Opened Dec. 2, 2015. Reviewed Nov. 29. Running time: <strong>2 HOURS, 15 MIN.</strong>

  • Production: A Second Stage Theater presentation, in association with American Repertory Theater, of a musical in two acts by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews, developed at Vineyard Arts Project and originally presented at the American Repertory Theater.
  • Crew: Directed by Diane Paulus. Choreographed (with Darrell Grand Moultrie) by Sergio Trujillo. Sets, Tom Pye; costumes, ESosa; lighting, Justin Townsend; sound, Jonathan Deans; projections, Peter Nigrini; music supervision, Remy Kurs; music director, Matt Gould; orchestrations, Matt Gould & Remy Kurs; production stage manager, Carolyn Boyd.
  • Cast: Griffin Matthews, Tyrone Davis, Jr., Kristolyn Lloyd, Michael Luwoye, Corey Mach, Nicolette Robinson, Adeola Role, Jamar Williams.