Fireflies – Review by Irene Backalenick

How delightful to retreat from the woes of today and enter a wry, funny small town world! “Fireflies,” now at Long Wharf, does just that.

The plot revolves around the stranger who’s come to town (a small Texas town), a familiar theme indeed. Is this stranger a drifter, a stalker, as some see him, or a guardian angel? “Fireflies” could have been a hackneyed tale, but what this gifted team does with the theme is top-level. Playwright, director, performers, designers all come together to lift this romantic comedy above the ordinary.

Specifically, playwright Matthew Barber depicts a December romance (loosely based on a novel by Annette Sanford), indicating that life at any stage can offer unexpected riches….Or can it? Is it a happily-ever-after ending?

Under Gordon Edelstein’s skillful direction, the story never loiters, but moves at a brisk, absorbing pace. Barber has created dialogue that never falters, that is often suddenly, unexpectedly, funny. And, joy of joys, Edelstein has two noted performers at hand—Jane Alexander and Judith Ivey. An unexpected gift to see this brilliant pair on stage! Alexander digs into her lead role, creating a character of dimension. And Ivey revels in her comic role–that of the sort-of friend/intrusive neighbor. Equal to this formidable duo is Denis Arndt, who plays the new man in town. Arndt fits so well into his faded jeans and plaid shirt, that he indeed becomes the character, giving a quiet, warm assurance to his portrayal. The cast is rounded out nicely by Christopher Michael McFarland as the officer of the law.

In summary, “Fireflies” is a joyous escape from today’s news. But more than that, this lightly-told tale gets beyond the superficial and truly explores the meaning of life.

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