Review Roundup: FIRES IN THE MIRROR Off-Broadway - Read the Reviews
Signature Theatre presents Fires in the Mirror by Anna Deavere Smith featuring Michael Benjamin Washington and directed by Saheem Ali. The production opened just last night, November 11th in The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues).
There are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth. Following the deaths of a Black American boy and a young Orthodox Jewish scholar in the summer of 1991, underlying racial tensions in the nestled community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn erupted into civil outbreak. Fires in the Mirror was Anna Deavere Smith's groundbreaking response. Birthed from a series of interviews with over fifty members of the Jewish and Black communities, the Drama Desk award-winning work translated their voices verbatim, and in the process revolutionized the genre of documentary theatre. As much provocation as it is exploration, this landmark play launches Anna Deavere Smith's Residency 1 at Signature.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Ali's version wisely avoids trying to replicate the show's initial impact. It is cooler in its approach and, inevitably, more distanced - both by time and by Smith's absence on the stage. Washington, who appeared in last year's Broadway revival of "The Boys in the Band," doesn't have Smith's gift for transformative mimicry, and you only rarely feel he actually becomes the people he portrays.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: Washington slips in and out of these roles almost imperceptibly. A white button-down shirt proves the perfect costume canvas: Open it up for more artistic and younger characters; button it high and roll down the sleeves for the conservative types. Add a jacket here, a bowtie there. A medallion and an imperious wide-legged, stiff-backed stance suggests Al Sharpton; a housecoat and a tilted head conveys a Lubavitcher woman. With an Australian accent and his heart in his throat-"My brother's blood cries out from the ground"-Washington is Norman Rosenbaum, eulogizing the slain Yankel. And in the final scene, shrouded in an unremarkable trenchcoat, he's the grieving Carmel Cato, Gavin's father. Bathed in Alan C. Edwards' bleak lighting, Washington suddenly looks like he's aged 20 years.
Thom Geier, The Wrap: What emerges most clearly in director Saheem Ali's thoughtful revival is both the technical brilliance of Smith's play - anticipating as it did other documentary-style theatrical works like "The Laramie Project" and even the output of the Elevator Repair Service company - as well as the sturdiness and durability of its craftsmanship. This is a one-person show that doesn't depend on its creator alone to bring it to full and vibrant life.