Below is a review of Firelight by the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre.
Moments pass, as though they wish to stay
We have not long to love… a night… a day
I enter a small hut, a shelter from the cold winds and icy temperatures outside. Pillows, seats, and cushions surround a small trunk in the center. Beads, stones, and sticks hang from the ceiling. It’s small, but warm and cozy. A man in unfamiliar clothes moves about the room. He finds a record, and puts it on. Jim Reeves, “Roses are Red, My Love” plays for the room. He smiles, snapping his fingers along to the music. “I love this part” he remarks to himself. As the music continues, the man’s wife yells from outside the hut in a foreign language I can’t understand. She sounds angry, but I can’t tell what about. She opens the door, and they bicker—the once peaceful atmosphere now broken. But they soon stop. It’s not important; the bickering doesn’t matter. She mutters “stupid” under her breath and she smiles. They have been together a long time, and they still love each other. And as the scene continues, I see their love expressed through the subtle nuances of their looks, their movements, and their touch.
Firelight is a show about love. It’s about how strong love can burn and how quickly it can be extinguished. It’s about how a flame can last years, flickering as if it could go out any moment, but it doesn’t. It’s about the light love casts, and how it affects those around us. And in that—it is beautiful, it is emotional, and it is heartbreaking.
Firelight is divided into multiple ten- to twenty-minute scenes interconnected by common themes, feelings, and tones. Entering each room introduces you to new characters and new emotions. And the length of each of these is perfect; it’s enough time to connect to the message being delivered, while never becoming stale or obvious. While Firelight is an immersive experience, it is not an interactive experience. You occupy the same space as the actors and are acknowledged as being there, but you are never included in the action. I found myself wanting to help certain characters, to hold their hand, to comfort them, but it wasn’t necessary. It would have been nice and would have immersed me further; but the message and emotion brought forth by the amazing cast and wonderful set design is strong enough on its own.
The first thing I noticed when entering the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre is how beautiful it is. I was welcomed by actors atop a grand staircase, and each room following transported me to a new location. They feel lived in; they feel real. This is truly a highlight of the experience because they know how to use their set to their advantage. Doors are often hidden and are a pleasant surprise when you learn where to go next. But it isn’t just the decor—Firelight expertly combined the sights and tone of a location, the songs and sound effects that fill each space, and even the food and drinks in each room, to fully immerse each participant. And to this last point, using drinks to connect the audience was a surprising highlight of the evening. Each room is filled with a different drink that matches the tone and theme of the room: wine at the get-together, whiskey at the toast, and tea at the home. This was an innovative and unique way to further immerse guests in an already immersive experience. Finally, the music was superb. Music can either add to an experience or break the immersion. But the music here was perfectly chosen and it further elevated each mood while remaining within the confines of the narrative.
The backbone of this narrative was the actors. They made me feel; they connected me to the story. And while there was one scene that fell a little flat for me, the acting in every scene was incredible. In almost every actor, I saw a different aspect of my own life. I was able to relate to the actors and the emotions they were conveying. And each performance was nuanced. I noticed the little signs of caring in the way the man handed the cup of tea to his wife, the way anger weighed on the tip of a hurt girl’s tongue, or the way a lustful man stared at a woman as he described how he might kiss her. These are the subtleties that make a show real.
Sometimes love is fleeting, sometime it is bright, and sometimes it hurts. But it’s all love. And that’s what Firelight accomplishes so powerfully; it makes the audience feel what it is to love. This is a beautiful tapestry made up of individual stories that each make you feel something different and reinforced by gorgeous sets and strong acting. Firelight is not a show to be missed. If you like immersive theater, love, or feeling something strongly, then check out this show. Drinks are on them!