4/21/2013 3:41 PM
When the values you've cultivated your whole life are no longer relevant, what do you do? How do you react? If you're a person who tells it like it is and can spot bullpucky a mile away and respects that quality in others, what happens if you can no longer hear, or see, or both, the person in front of you? What if you've felt superior to both your husband and daughter for so long, now that you need them, really need them, they don't know if they have it in them.
Forgiveness is a powerful thing. It requires a lot of effort and, sometimes, we're all guilty of it, we decide it's just not worth our time. Not enough of an upside. If we're lucky, we have someone who is stronger than us, whose well is deeper than we ever gave them credit for. Through them, we can realize our capacity to change.
The play accumulates these moments subtly. Nothing is forced. It relies on our seeing ourselves in the characters' confused emotions and allowing those feelings to propel the play forward. In the distance, a small fire, a great comfort on a cold night.
4/24/2013 7:38 PM
“A Small Fire” is going to turn some readers off.
I say “readers” and not “audience members” because this is an unusually formatted script. In (I’m assuming) an attempt to give the play a heightened sense of realism, Adam Bock has written it almost as a transcript of an audio recording rather than a fully realized blueprint for a stage show. Lots of sentence fragments, unusual and sometimes confusing punctuation, and minimal stage directions. At times it feels like David Mamet and e.e. cummings tried to write a screenplay together.
Don’t confuse this observation with criticism, though; if you can get past the nonstandard presentation, there is a beautiful and moving story to be found.
Emilie and John Bridges are a long-married couple whose daughter is getting married to someone they aren’t thrilled about. Emilie is tough, outspoken, critical. John’s kinder, gentler, more supportive. Tensions about the wedding rise and fall – then Emilie loses her sense of smell. She slowly succumbs to a mysterious disease that robs her of her taste, sight, and hearing.
A TV medical drama would fixate on finding a cure, but Bock focuses on the relationships between the characters whose wife/daughter/friend has gone from fiercely independent to completely reliant on others. In the end, it’s about the power of love to withstand even the most heart-breaking obstacles.
A few technical notes – the play takes place in a few different settings, but the amount of scenery required for each is negotiable. Just know that the scenes themselves, due to their realistic dialogue, do not necessarily propel themselves into the next one, so be sure you have a plan to handle scene changes fluidly and quickly. Sound also plays an important role.
Due to its scale, this play is likely best suited for smaller, intimate theaters.