A sharp winter sun filtered into the Knockdown Center, a former factory turned art space in Maspeth, Queens, on a recent afternoon as Skylar Astin and Morgan Hernandez enacted the bridal shop mock-wedding scene from “West Side Story.”
“Make of our hands one hand,” the young actors sang as they stood on the narrow stage. In “West Side Story,” with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “One Hand, One Heart” is a hymnlike duet of arresting tenderness, an expression of a hope that will ultimately be dashed by racial tension and cultural mistrust. But as Mr. Astin (“Pitch Perfect”) and Ms. Hernandez (a freshman at the Boston Conservatory) continued to hold hands, dozens of teenagers solemnly flooded the stage. As they joined in, singing “Make of our hearts one heart,” what had begun as a duet about a personal connection became a choral affirmation of collective healing.