“Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me…”
or “You cain’t unpeck a fig.”
A Theater Review by Julinda D. Lewis
CAT – Chamberlayne Actor’s Theatre
At: HATTheatre, 1124 Westbriar Dr., Richmond, VA 23238
Performances: June 10-12 & June 17-19, 2022
Ticket Prices: $24.00 General Admission. $20.00 Seniors
I usually avoid words like charming and endearing, but in the case of Fireflies those are the words that seem most appropriate. Fireflies is a story of opening up and letting go, and it is a love story between two mature people that is not played as a spoof or a sitcom. Fireflies, the insect, represent love; their soft luminescence is part of their mating ritual, and they remind us of summer nights as children, chasing fireflies and trying to capture them in a jar to make their elusive light last. The symbolism of fireflies is indirectly alluded to throughout the play, but it’s there.
Ms. Eleanor Bannister (played by Jean Roberts) is a retired teacher in the small Texas town of Groverdell. She never married, and has settled into a comfortable life of respectability. Eleanor still lives in the house she grew up in, and rents the “honeymoon cottage” her father built for her that was never used for its intended purpose. At times, Roberts seems to channel the spirit of the late Bea Arthur. Ms. Grace Bodell (played by Linda Snyder) is Eleanor’s loyal, caring – read “nosy” – friend and neighbor, an archetype familiar to the residents of every small town or cul-de-sac. It is a role Snyder approaches with just the right balance of humor and temperance. One day a charming drifter appears and shakes up Eleanor’s routine, pulling her out of her comfort zone and, in the process, gives the town something to talk about. William Henry brings the necessary tension and mystery to his portrayal of Abel Brown, keeping us interested and never quite sure if he is who he says he is. There is always a lingering question. . .
Abel Brown fixes a hole in the roof of Eleanor’s rental property, and in the process opens Eleanor’s heart to the possibility of romance. In the relatively short span of about a week, spread over five acts and two scenes, we are drawn willingly into Eleanor’s unfamiliar and unexpected journey and get to experience familiarity with her plight, longing for adventure, and recognition of her dilemma.
In addition to fixing the roof and doing other repairs, Abel Brown – whose character seems to require being referred to by his full name – serenades Eleanor by playing “Beautiful Dreamer” on her father’s antique violin, and impresses her with his peanut butter and jelly sandwich-making skills. The beauty of FIREFLIES lies largely in its simplicity. Eleanor and Grace chat over homemade cake and a glass of milk and comment on the weather, the state of Eleanor’s house, and Grace’s “Sunday hair.”
The play is set in Eleanor’s kitchen and the atmosphere is dominated by the easy banter between the two friends. The natural pacing and familiarity of the scenes makes the electricity sizzle all the more when Abel Brown makes his appearances and introduces much-needed excitement and tension. The Sunday I attended, the space had been affected by a summer storm that left the house lights and air-conditioning off, providing an unintended touch of authenticity to the Texas summer scenes.
Director Ann Davis kept the pace sultry but interesting, and seemed to have a genuine connection with the author’s vision for this show. A second-act appearance by Alvino Medina as Eugene, the local sheriff’s deputy – and Eleanor’s former student – may have been necessary from the author’s point of view, but did not seem to quite fit in with the rhythm already established by Roberts, Henry, and Snyder. Nevertheless, Fireflies is a delightful and heartwarming story with a few unexpected twists and turns that upset the flow of predictability and makes for a satisfying evening of theater.
Julinda D. Lewis is a dancer, teacher, and writer who was born in Brooklyn, NY and now lives in Eastern Henrico County.
Written by Matthew Barber
Directed by Ann Davis
Jean Roberts as Eleanor Bannister
Linda Snyder as Grace Bodell
William Henry as Abel Brown
Alvino Medina as Eugene Claymire
Creative Design Team
Director – Ann Davis
Stage Manager – Brandy Stevens
Set Designer – Scott Bergman
Costume Designer – Sheila Russ
Lighting Designer – Chris Stepp
Properties Master – Ellie Wilder
Sound Designer – Buddy Bishop
Backstage Crew – Ashton Lee & Dinah Lee S. Mason
Fri. Jun 10th 2022, 8:00 pm
Sat. Jun 11th 2022, 8:00 pm
Sun. Jun 12th 2022, 2:30 pm
Fri. Jun 17th 2022, 8:00 pm
Sat. Jun 18th 2022, 8:00 pm
Sun. Jun 19th 2022, 2:30 pm
Ticket prices range from $24.00 General Admission. $20.00 Seniors.
The play runs about 2 hours with 1 intermission
Photo Credits: Daryll Morgan Studios
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