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BWW Review: PRETTY FIRE at Blackfriars Theatre


After a 19-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic the lights at Blackfriars Theatre are once again lit.

BWW Review: PRETTY FIRE at Blackfriars Theatre

After a 19-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic the lights at Blackfriars Theatre are once again lit, albeit casting light on only one performer, a simple set, and a modest-sized audience (buy your tickets now! All safety precautions are being taken! Get vaccinated if you haven't already!). For its triumphant return, Blackfriars has chosen a powerful one-woman show about love, struggle, and triumph, one with themes both timeless and incredibly topical.

"Pretty Fire" is an autobiographical play about the early life of playwright Charlayne Woodard (Adryanna Elmendorf), specifically highlighting the events of her birth through age 11 through the alternating points of view of herself, her sister, parents, grandparents, various ancillary characters like nurses and school bullies, and at one point, even a tree. The play powerfully reminisces Charlayne's experience as a young black girl in a world that often isn't kind to young black girls, and how the forces of family, race, struggle and triumph shaped the person she became.

As all one-person shows do, "Pretty Fire" hinges on the performance and magnetism of its sole cast member, and in this case, Elmendorf certainly does not disappoint. She seamlessly flows between characters that are as disparate as they are towering and flamboyant: a hard-headed father; a panicking, terror-riddled mother in labor; a sassy delivery nurse; a profane and monstrous school bully; and my personal favorite, a no-nonsense take-no-prisoners Dixie grandmother. Elmendorf navigates these many characters through intense and emotionally charged chapters of her life (racial violence and sexual assault, most notably) with incredible fluidity and nimbleness, punctuating the moments of drama and intensity with great humor and heart.

"Pretty Fire" is storytelling at its most powerful, and is a well-acted and thought-provoking piece of theatre.

How To Get Tickets

It's playing at Blackfriars Theatre until November 7th; for tickets and more information, click here.

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From This Author Colin Fleming-Stumpf