Philadelphia Theatre Company’s elegant production of A Small Fire showcases strong performance. Curtains up and we meet Emily (Bebe Neuwirth), a gruff, sharp contractor. She is in control of her business and her home life, which suits her husband, John (John Dossett), just fine, but drives her daughter (Sarah Gliko) crazy. As her daughter’s wedding approaches, Emily begins to lose her senses: first smell, then taste, and so on… Emily descends into a world of darkness and must rely on her family.
Joanie Schultz’s direction centers on masterful and delicate performances by Neuwirth and Dossett. The play takes a while to build steam but leads to a stunning climax and denouement. Adam Bock’s structure leaves many scenes that feel like they end prematurely. For some, this adds a delightful bit of tension, like an unresolved chord progression. Other times, we miss a potentially juicy moment. The production’s 90 minutes (no intermission) is a brisk, but satisfying journey.
[Philadelphia Theatre Company at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad Street] October 18–November 10, 2019; philadelphiatheatrecompany.org