BWW Reviews: WILDFIRE Revisited @ Odyssey Theatre
by Kari Floren
directed by Eve Brandstein
through July 31
Gal pals love/hate, hug/spar with equal measure...sometimes simultaneously. It's not a game we're talking about, but true friendship: being yourself in the presence of your best friend, sometimes stepping on toes, or other times, giving gifts... confiding deep desires, sharing secrets; at all costs, going beyond the call of duty...plus one further... in Kari Floren's Revisiting Wildfire, now onstage as a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre...(we must include) never abandoning your ideals and personal happiness for the sake of the other's. There's too much at stake and in the last analysis, you are number ONE. Some will not agree.
Pam (Denise Crosby) and Theresa (Jamie Rose) have been friends since college and through the years, through thick and thin, have stood by each other. Now as Theresa is turning 52, Pam pays her a surprise visit, but Theresa is not pleased. She's lost her job, is miserable about her future in New York City, and opts for Nebraska...to live in a cabin and save the horse made famous in the 1975 song "Wildfire" by Michael Martin Murphey and Larry Cansler. She's a cause lady who goes to extremes...giving the outward appearance of having lost it. Pam, who has come all the way from Cleveland, Ohio is instantly concerned for her overall mental health. Pam is not without problems of her own; there are ulterior motives for this visit. To make a long story short, both women are in need of some TLC, and over the course of 80 minutes, they dole it out to each other as they arduously try to maneuver the obstacles.
The positive side of Kari Floren's writing is her ability to take a serious issue and make it really funny. It's similar to Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, where Felix tries to commit suicide in the opening scene, but gradually comes to terms with his solitary life because of the support of his friend Oscar, whose own turmoil only adds more chaotic fuel to the fire. Revisiting Wildfire, however, is definitely a girl rather than a guy thing. Women will find solace, comfort and a lot of laughs within each gal's dilemma - which I refuse to divulge. You must see the play to appreciate them. One thing I will bring out: a cocaine scene suggests the right therapeutic mood, but somehow it never goes anywhere, cutting off in mid-stream. Floren may wish to rework it, as resultant wild nostalgic memories might add more colors and dimension to the relationship and the conflicts at hand.
Both Crosby and Rose excel at every turn. Rose's Theresa is so focused on turning her life around and making a difference that the audience accepts her fanatical, erratic behavior kind of in the way that they accept Don Quixote's idealistic quest to change mankind. Better to move along in a crazed condition than just sit in a corner and rot! Pam's problems are more grounded and prone to sympathy, but Crosby never allows Pam to become a basket case. She maintains control. Both actresses get the chance to be dramatically and comedically moving under Eve Brandstein's skilled and finely paced direction.
Set design by Elisha Schaefer of Theresa's neat two-bedroom apartment in NYC is spot-on convincing, and Kathryn Poppen's costumes suit both ladies well, especially the pretty tops and dress for Ms. Crosby.
In the end, there are bound to be some like me who may want more compromise, more selflessness. The idea of both living separate, solitary lives miles apart seems cold...exciting, perhaps, but cold. I'm old fashioned that way...and a man to boot! But...it's definitely now with its insistence on change. And if that entails brandishing one's ideals and forging ahead in a positive manner, Revisiting Wildfire is gutsy and unquestionably worthwhile.