Theatre Review: A SMALL FIRE at Philadelphia Theatre Company

PTC opens season with A Small Fire



Philadelphia Theatre Company opens its 45th Season with Adam Bock’s poignant drama, A Small Fire.  Directed by Joanie Schultz it features Tony and Emmy winner, Bebe Neuwirth (Emily Bridges).  She is joined by three theater veterans, John Dossett (John Bridges), Sara Gilko (Jenny Bridges), and Oge Agulue (Billy Fontaine).

The “small fire” metaphor by the playwright refers to those critical things in our lives that test our mettle.  They come upon us seemingly from out of the blue, but their source is much less important than the reaction we have to them.


Emily Bridges is a strong woman.  She runs her own construction company.  We see her in the opening scene with foreman, Billy Fontaine putting out fires at work.  It is clearly her strength.  Running a construction company is chiefly about putting out fires.  Her foreman is one who has risen in the ranks under her mentorship.  She trusts him and relies on him.  The next fire we see for Emily is putting the finishing touches on her only daughter’s wedding to a man that she doesn’t like.  We are introduced to her husband who supports his wife while being the only one who can disagree constructively.

Right before the wedding, Emily begins losing her senses one at a time.  It starts with smell, but eventually moves on to hearing and then sight.  Although this is hardly a small fire in her life, to those who care for her and love her it is another fire they must try and put out.  This play is less about outcome than process.  How do we deal with whatever fires we must face?

This is a highly nuanced play.  That is why it is Director Schultz good fortune to have two highly skilled veterans in Neuwirth and Dossett.  They offer a class in speaking with subtext.  They let their body language accentuate their words.  As the mildly estranged, somewhat bratty daughter, Gilko proffers great energy and solid ability.  As the foreman, Agulue is steadfast, loyal, and truly appreciative of his boss and good friend.

Chelsea Warren’s Scenic Design is complemented by Rachael Cady’s Lighting.  Christopher Colucci’s Sound and Mark Mariani’s Costumes also contribute to Director Schultz’s vision.  A Small Fire runs until November 10th.  For tickets call 215.985.0420

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