For some, fireflies are a harbinger of summer, a welcome announcement of a long-awaited arrival. Others might label fireflies as an omen, a warning flash of change, or an illumination through the darkness signaling a rebirth. Playwright Donja R. Love takes a closer look at the latter with his play titled âFirelies,â a two-character dramatic dance that exudes hope for a new beginning.
It’s the fall of 1963 and Olivia Grace (Angelique Powell) is pacing the kitchen, impatiently awaiting her husband’s return.
The good Reverend Charles Grace (Michael Lake), a charismatic speaker and vocal civil rights leader, is expected anytime now – at his home for a short stay before leaving again. Dinner waits in the oven, the bed is hot, and Olivia has finished writing the Reverend’s speech, a speech he will read at the funeral service of four young girls, the latest victims of a never-ending cycle of racial hatred. At first, the homecoming between the Reverend and his wife is joyful and in love, but something murky and unspoken looms large in the air. Unexpressed anger is rife and secret betrayals are about to erupt.
Interesting game, with a more fascinating dramatic set-up. The playwright intelligently takes what we think is a familiar story and characters and tries to turn it into something more visceral, more urgent, more accessible.
Using characters we think we know and openly showing their struggles and private desires would be an intriguing drama. But while Love’s dialogue crackles and sparks, the fire doesn’t burn as brightly as the story warrants.
As solid as Love’s script is, it is also frustrating as it oscillates between strong dramatic moments of tension – that is, the powerful demand for long-sought answers to unanswered questions and the relentless desire to be more than the label of a âwoman of the movement,â at times dangerously approaching the soap opera with the discovery of sordid betrayals and flirtations of mental illness. Although these trigger moments of dialogue and d well-designed emotion, they also land a bit gloomy and unnecessary in the story.
Supported by two outstanding performances, a clever and crisp staging by Chris Foster and a wonderful design, the play, despite its flaws, ends a satisfying evening of theater.
Powell is wonderful as wife Olivia. His creation of a complex and lost woman, who finds rebirth in a way that is not really expected or wanted, is powerful and full of controlled emotions. Olivia’s final monologue is masterfully performed by Powell, nuanced and balanced offering an acute insight into the themes of the piece.
Lake captures the Reverend’s passions and flaws very well, deftly playing a smart, hurt man who keeps all cards close at hand until he can play a winning hand. Lake hits a high note with Charles’ final speech – a man who asked his wife to write his words, now speaks for himself in his own voice. Well done and it’s a moving moment.
An intriguing and thoughtful new piece, Curtain Call does Love’s work a great service. Frank Oliva’s set design impresses, as do Lily Fossner’s artful lighting, Alex Dietz-Kest’s soundscape and Beth Ruman’s well-appointed costumes. There is more than a flash of brilliance here.
OR: Curtain Call Theater, Latham
COST: $ 30
Thursday – 7:30 p.m.
Friday – 8 p.m.
Saturday – 8 p.m.
Saturday January 15 – 3 p.m.
Sunday – 3 p.m.
MORE INFORMATION: Call 518-877-7529 or visit Curtaincalltheater.com
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