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Monday, March 3, 2014

"A Small Fire" @ Portland Center Stage

"A Small Fire" is a departure for director Rose Riordan, and possibly for playwright Adam Bock, though I have less exposure to his work. (I saw "The Receptionist" in its first incarnation at CoHo, but I'm apparently the only theatre-goer in Portland who missed "The Thugs".) Most of Ms. Riordan's work is on the darker side,"The Pillowman", "The North Plan" Bock's "Receptionist," to name a few. So, it is quite surprising that while "A Small Fire"certainly deals with heavy subjects, there is also a lot of tenderness in it.

It's a play of small moments. We watch as Emily Bridges, a somewhat gruff woman, loses her sense of smell, quickly followed by her sight and hearing.  It's difficult to watch, especially given Emily's fierce independence. One of my favorite small moments is when Emily's co-worker and closest friend, the affable Billy, (Isaac Lamb)  has her grasp his hardhat by way of identification.

Emily is played by Peggy J. Scott, and her vulnerable, unexpected, and brave final moment in the play has stuck with me for days.

Once again, my transportation was extremely late, as it was for "Bonita", but this time, because it was opening night, I got to meet quite a few members of the cast, as well as the playwright. That was fun.

In my review of PCS' last production "Bonita," I relished the opportunity to warn of disturbing subject-matter, "A Small Fire" could be considered disturbing in certain respects, but I think the word is "disquieting," it shakes you up not because it's dark, but because you're surprised by how much you care.  

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