BWW Review: WhatsInTheMirror's FIREFLIES Tackles Big Topics
FIREFLIES is set in the late summer of 1963, at a home in the South - just after the Birmingham church bombings that killed four young girls. The story centers on Olivia (Tenee Goff). She's the wife of Reverend Charles Grace (Ryan Smith) - who is known for his powerful public speeches on civil rights. While he is inspiring crowds throughout the South, Olivia is trying to hold herself together as she battles anxiety over the fate of her husband and their unborn child. She's increasingly certain that the world isn't safe for the baby she is carrying.
The main themes of the show are racial violence, and mental health - but the play also tackles LGBTQ themes, reproductive rights, sexual assault, infidelity, and patriarchy. But while the primary themes are explored in-depth, FIREFLIES' secondary themes are mentioned briefly and then seemingly forgotten as the play takes several unexpected turns. At times, this leaves the audience feeling overwhelmed - much like the characters who are navigating these enormous challenges.
Whatsinthemirror's production of FIREFLIES is beautifully executed - with direction by Tarik Daniels. Santa Cruz Theatre is an excellent venue for this production - as the intimate size of the space allows each audience member to more personally connect with the material. The music, set design, and costumes all transport the audience back to the civil rights era. Ryan Smith delivers a powerful performance as Charles, balancing the charisma and energy of a famous civil rights speaker with the problematic personality of a man who is used to having an obedient wife. However, the standout performance of the show is Tenee Goff as Olivia. At first, her performance almost gives the audience whiplash as her character shifts quickly between competing emotions. But as the plot develops, the reason for these shifts becomes clear and Goff's performance is recognized as a challenging and skillful portrayal of a woman trapped under the weight of too many burdens.
Whatsinthemirror is a 501c3 nonprofit "that provides mental health awareness and suicide prevention", specifically for minority communities. Although this production of FIREFLIES ended August 18th, more information about the group's upcoming events can be found at https://whatsinthemirror.org.