NY1 Theater Review: "A Small Fire"
"A Small Fire" is a new Off-Broadway work by up-and-coming playwright Adam Bock that is currently being presented at Playwrights Horizons. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
Adam Bock's "A Small Fire" is a small play about some very lofty matters - love (both parental and marital), health and friendship. It's a perplexing work that partially succeeds, though, thanks to a beautifully conceived production, it's never less than compelling.
Emily is a tough woman thriving in the male-dominated construction industry. She talks like a guy and seems far more comfortable among the hard hats at a building site than in the nurturing confines of home and hearth. That's probably why her marriage isn't exactly ideal and her daughter feels somewhat alienated by her.
Yet something's wrong with Emily. She suddenly lacks the ability to smell, the sense of taste goes along with it and before long she's inexplicably left blind and deaf as well. She's literally "lost her senses" and her fragile family bonds are put to the test.
Despite the play's naturalism, Bock is clearly aiming for a metaphorical angle on Emily's plight. There's no other way to explain why Bock fails to offer a medical explanation or write in any talk of a cure.
Just what he is trying to say in this sensitively wrought play is a bit of a quandary. On the surface, there's a "disease of the week" element that threatens to sabotage any meaningful message. But the astonishing final scene between husband and wife presents a lovely revelation that basically teaches us about the essence and depth of true love.
Director Trip Cullman handles the material with impressive restraint, and his casting is sublime.
Victor Williams brings infectious energy to the role of Emily's best friend and co-worker. As the daughter, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Tony-nominated for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," emerges as a first-class dramatic actress. Reed Birney is impeccable, revealing the myriad shades of a distraught husband's eternal devotion.
Michele Pawk is heartbreakingly real. As Emily's senses diminish, Pawk manages to make her more and more human.
There's great food for thought in "A Small Fire," even if it's likely to seem undercooked.