Posted: June 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

Gordon Carpenter, Teri Lazzara photo by Ken Holmes A Small Fire

Sound Theatre Company has assembled a stellar cast in their latest production of “A Small Fire,” written by Adam Bock and directed by Julie Beckman.

The bitter sweet drama tells the story of Emily Bridges (played by Teri Lazzara), a tough-as-nails, no-nonsense, general contractor “boss lady” who slowly starts to lose her senses due to a mysterious illness.

As the illness progresses, she gets more and more cut off from the others around her, and is forced into an isolated world void of everything that normally connects us to life: vision, sound, smell, and taste. In time, however, through the strength of her relationship with her husband, John, (played by Gordon Carpenter), she comes to discover the power of touch and its ability to arouse even deeper senses of love, passion, and connection.

Although this is a short play, a one-act with a 90-minute run, it does require quite a bit of scenery changes: construction sites, a wedding reception, an outdoor nature setting for birdwatching, and of course, the home of Emily and John, specifically their living room and bedroom where the majority of the play’s action unravels.

To succeed in creating such diverse settings in a space as small and confining as that of New City Theatre, (where the show is currently running), is no easy feat to achieve. But scenic/costume designer, Montana Tippett, has done a good job of doing so. Her pragmatic and flexible set-design managed to give more depth to the tiny space than what ever seemed possible.

Granted, seeing this show in a larger, better equipped space would have been nice. But the close proximity actually allowed for a greater sense of connection to the characters, which may have been lost in a larger space. The intimacy of the show benefitted actually from the intimacy of the space.

There were a few minor glitches, however, with some of the sound cues. In particular, there were a couple of times when it felt like the actors may have been waiting a little too long for a phone to ring (and other cues of that nature), but none were too, terribly, glaring.

As for the actors and actresses, the ensemble of four give solid performances in their respective roles. At first, I had some difficulty trying to figure out Lazzara’s character at the beginning of the show, but it became clear rather quickly that she was working on many levels with her character. At first glance, she seems one-dimensional, but by the end of the play, although her character has been reduced to a world of darkness and silence, Lazzara manages to pull her audience in and keep them focused on her with just blank stares and hand squeezes that she uses in order to communicate.

Carpenter also gives an outstanding performance in his role as Emily’s husband, John Bridges. His portrayal is honest, sincere, and endearing. And both he and Lazzara are to be commended for handling the potentially awkward challenges presented by the play’s final scene with sensitivity and commitment. Neither of them held back, but instead exposed raw emotion and vulnerability in that touching final scene.

Rounding out the cast are the play’s two other characters: Jenny Bridges, (played by Sara Coates), the engaged daughter of Emily and John, who is much closer to her father than to her mother; and Billy Fontaine, Emily’s employee and good friend (played by Ray Tagavilla).

Both gave very believable and engaging performances as well in their respective roles. Coates did a great job of showing the effects of living with such a headstrong and, (on the surface anyway), unfeeling mother all of her life. Tagavilla, on the other hand, showed impressive versatility as an actor, and was surprisingly nuanced in his role as Emily’s main foreman.

Yes, the play is a little on the sad side, I suppose, but I felt that it was very emotionally honest and complex over all. Director Julie Beckman manages to maintain the right balance between lightness and gravity, and she keeps the pace clipping along quite nicely.

“A Small Fire” plays through June 21st at New City Theatre, 1406 18th Ave. For tickets and info, visit http://www.SoundTheatreCompany.org.

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