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“A Small Fire” Smolders at Falcon Theatre

Review by Laurel Humes of A Small Fire: Falcon Theatre

A family’s life unravels in A Small Fire, now at Falcon Theatre.

The play literally begins with a small stovetop fire. That’s when Emily discovers she has lost her sense of smell, unable to smell the dishcloth smoldering on the burner.

She shrugs it off. As portrayed by Kristy Rucker, Emily is a hard-driving owner of a construction company, both barking orders and showing sincere friendship to her manager, Billy (Evan Blanton).

Anyway, Emily’s got no time for this malady. She and husband John (Terry Gosdin) are planning daughter Jenny’s (Victoria Hawley) wedding. Even though Emily does not approve of the match.

But – one by one, Emily’s other senses shut down. Taste. Sight. Hearing. It happens fast within the 90-minute play, because playwright Adam Bock is not concerned with the impairments but with everyone’s reactions to them.

Rucker shines in the difficult role of Emily. Her expressive face shares all her emotions with us: fear, frustration, anger, hopelessness. In the end, she is almost totally isolated.

Gosdin’s mild-mannered John at first comes off as nearly milquetoast pitted against his forceful wife. But he stays devoted, continuing to put her needs ahead of his own. He stays even when her words hurt. “I didn’t love you, but I do now,” says Emily, now dependent on him.

Hawley performs well the difficult role of daughter Jenny. She helps us empathize with her always problematic relationship with her mother. But in the end, she flees. “It’s just too sad,” she tells her father.

Blanton’s Billy provides some much-needed comic relief, and a philosophical tone, too. “This can be a disaster or an opportunity, a chance to change stuff,” he tells John.

I was frustrated with this play. I simply could not suspend my disbelief. There is no explanation for Emily’s condition, no therapists, no one teaching her braille.

What’s left for audience members to ponder, then, is: What if this happened to me? A hard question, and we may not like the answers.

A Small Fire, directed by Ted J. Weil, continues Thursdays-Saturdays through Dec. 1 at Falcon Theatre, 636 Monmouth St., Newport. Tickets are available at 513-479-6783 or athttp://falcontheater.net.