Review: Seth Rue Takes on 30+ Characters in Exquisite FIRES IN THE MIRROR, at Profile Theatre

By: Oct. 18, 2018
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Review: Seth Rue Takes on 30+ Characters in Exquisite FIRES IN THE MIRROR, at Profile Theatre

If you have time to see only one play this weekend, make it Anna Deveare Smith's FIRES IN THE MIRROR at Profile Theatre. It's a series of 30 or so monologues, all performed by Seth Rue, in response to the Crown Heights riot of 1991. Even though the central events occurred almost three decades ago, FIRES IN THE MIRROR's exploration of racial tensions could not be more timely. Also, Rue's performance will knock your socks off.

In August 1991 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, an African-American boy was killed by a car in a rabbi's motorcade. Later, a Jewish student was killed by a group of young African-American men in retaliation. There were three days of riots and demonstrations.

But what had really happened? Was the driver intoxicated? Did the ambulance come quickly enough? Did they do everything they could to save the boy? Was the driver let off too easily? That all depends on your perspective. And FIRES IN THE MIRROR gives you all of the perspectives.

The monologues are drawn from interviews with a variety of people, including witnesses to the event and other members of the Crown Heights community. Deveare Smith's style is to present the interviews verbatim, movements and verbal tics included. Monologues from Jewish and African-American people are interwoven into a conversation that emphasizes the struggle of both sides to understand what was happening. The result is extraordinary -- a powerful commentary on race, polarization, and the ability for two (or 20) people to look at the exact same thing yet see something completely different.

I can't recall the last time I saw a performance as good as Rue's. It's a masterpiece. Using only a few props (hats, a scarf), he transforms into around 30 distinct characters -- young, old, men, women, African-American, Jewish. He has compassion for every single one of them, and as an audience member, I couldn't help but feel that compassion as well. Rue made my heart swell and break, and then swell and break again.

I very highly recommend FIRES IN THE MIRROR. Go for the social commentary, the incredible performance, whatever -- just go.

FIRES IN THE MIRROR runs through October 21. Details and tickets here.