Fires in the Mirror – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Thirty years have passed since Anna Deavere Smith conducted dozens of interviews surrounding the tragic incidents in Crown Heights, a suburb of New York City, that highlighted an accident that resulted in the death of a seven year old black child Gavin Cato and the deliberate stabbing of a Jewish scholar visiting from Australia. Smith has woven these interviews, using the participants’ own words, into a personal and powerful reflection of the actions that became the Crown Heights riots in 1991.

”Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities” will be unveiled and revealed dramatically at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven until Sunday, February 6 and it is a disturbing portrait of the racial differences that divide us. On a distinctly African set by Diggle with sand as a continuum of black culture and its grounding, the remarkable actress Cloteal L. Horne creates the identity of twenty-six people from both the black and Jewish community who are intimately involved in the tragedy. From well known personalities like the Reverend Al Sharpton and activist Angela Davis to Orthodox Jewish women and revered rabbis, the story of the events unfolds in dramatic fashion, as each participant explains their position in the difficult events from their unique perspective.

With bare feet and only a few props like glasses and clothing, with a change in accent and personality, Horne is able to skillfully make each voice distinct and state their message of responsibility clearly. The whole picture becomes clear as so many tragedies are wrapped into one. Each member of the community has been deeply affected by loss, from the Jewish driver who accidentally kills the little boy to the brother of the Jewish scholar who is the unfortunate victim of retribution by a gang of black youth.

Along the way slavery is revealed as a crime against humanity where 250 million are lost over 300 years and contrasted with the Holocaust and its toll of six million lives taken by the Nazis. Anti-Semitism is exposed as a deep seated hatred. The play ends with a communal call that “We deserve a better world” and “Healing is possible.” Nicole Brewer directs this emotional outpouring of testimony.

For tickets ($59), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven, at 203-693-1486 or online at Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m, Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 pm. and Sunday at 2 p.m. You must show proof of vaccination and wear your mask while in the theater.

Be part of the audience that honors the lives lost in Crown Heights Brooklyn and ensures that the anger and rage that prompted it never happen again.