Fireflies – Review by Bonnie Goldberg


Fireflies are lightning bugs that produce a cold light color from yellow to green to pale red as part of their mating dance. Fireflies glow and flash,wink and emit patterns of attraction, sending out signals to attract potential suitors. People can act like these beetles when they too see someone of interest for a romantic entanglement. To prove this point, come witness the waltz that Abel Brown enacts as he tries to woo a spark of love juice from Eleanor Bannister. He is going to need jars full of lightning bugs if he is to succeed in his courtship.

Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven is going to be assisting Abel in his pursuits with the charming and sweet world premiere of Matthew Barber’s “Fireflies,” based on a novel by Annette Sanford, until Sunday, November 5. The dance steps between Denis Arndt’s Abel and the reluctant woman he is pursuing, Jane Alexander’s Eleanor, are quaint and sincere and not always on the mark, but Abel has a goal and he is capable of an organized and subtle attack.

Eleanor is a retired school teacher who has settled into a life of uncomplicated concerns in the lazy town of Groverdell, Texas where she has lived her whole life. Picking her figs and making preserves, getting the air conditioning fixed, and clearing off the back porch are about all that occupy her quiet days. The only ripple to date is the constant comments of her next door neighbor Grace, an insistently invading Judith Ivey, who needs to know and comment about Eleanor’s every thought and action. The well meaning Grace now has a new threat to convey: there is a stranger, a drifter, who has been seen in the quiet Texas town and is capable of rape and murder and no end of con man schemes and Eleanor needs to be on her guard.

Of course, that monster in the mists is Abel Brown and he appears in Eleanor’s life as a breathe of change and a distinct risk to her equilibrium. Abel is a handyman and he sees the recent storm has torn a hole in the cottage on her property. Dare she let him fix it? Can he be trusted to enter her kitchen for a drink of lemonade? What of his past indiscretions? If Grace is right, is Eleanor ripe for the picking like her figs?

Alexander Dodge has created a homey kitchen set for the waltz of needs that takes place. The supreme acting skills of these cast members is a pure delight to behold. There are even moments of silent invasion when an old pupil Eugene Michael McFarland enters the fray as a policeman called by the self appointed guardian Grace who fears for her neighbor’s well being. Gordon Edelstein directs a simply satisfying foray into these lives and makes us feel all the better for the visitation.

For tickets ($34.50-90.50), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come be enchanted by Eleanor as she is poised on a literary cliff, almost ready to jump, if she can be sure she will be able (Abel) to fly.