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Off Broadway

Fire in Dreamland Burns Bright at the Public

Fire in Dreamland Burns Bright at the Public

A woman cries, somewhere, possibly on a boardwalk by the beach, or so it seems, but for a reason we aren’t quite aware of yet.  Then, all of a sudden, there’s a snap, something like a bolt of thunder and lightning, arriving together, as if a storm is directly overhead. And in a way it is, in Rinne Groff’s (The Ruby SunriseCompulsion) new play, Fire In Dreamland, returning her once again to The Public Theater to tell a story about the impossibility of telling a story and the passion of those crazy souls who want to make art out of history. It’s a powerfully dynamic and funny new play directed with a detailed perfection by the specific Marissa Wolf (Kansas City Rep’s Man in Love) making her New York City debut. It begins with tears, but the thrill of this dual tiered story is not sad, but exhilarating, like an old fashioned wooden roller coaster. Exciting, clangy, and fast, this tale, that starts out with loss and disillusionment, finds its pathway through devastation into salvation, much like that heart-pounding feeling when we know we have survived the wild ride of a roller coaster ride, and we return to the safety of the platform edge.

Rebecca Naomi Jones andEnver Gjokaj. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Kate stands there, overwhelmed, breathless, and lost. She is played by the powerful lioness-herself, Rebecca Naomi Jones (ATC’s Describe the Night) in a magnificently constructed and nuanced performance that pulls us in before we even realize she’s done it.  Wrapped tightly in a trench coat against the cold Coney Island air on that beautifully constructed boardwalk, designed smartly by scenic and costume designer Susan Hilferty (RTC’s Love Love Love, Public’s The Gabriels), with strong precise lighting by Amith Chandrashaker (Ars Nova’s The Lucky Ones), and exacting sound design by Brendan Aanes (Ars Nova’s Cowboy Bob), she is slammed up against the charismatic European film maker by the name of Jaap, played seductively by the handsome Enver Gjokaj (Public’s As You Like It). He wipes away her mascara-infused tears and whispers a story that invigorates him obsessively into her ear about a 1911 fire that burned Coney Island’s Dreamland amusement park to the ground. He’s focused quite passionately on the animals within the circus big top, but it’s the humans before us that we are transfixed by. But it is the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, that was Kate’s focus, but now Kate needs another sort of ride to bring meaning and excitement back into her disillusioned life. So before she can even see the seductive European hook that has caught her, she buys a ticket on Jaap’s passion project, and gives up all in order to climb on board with a newly found passion, roaring loudly like that fiery lion high up on top of the rollercoaster. The only thing she has to figure out, with the help of another star-struck soul by the name of Lance, played persuasively by Kyle Beltran (Vineyard’s The Amateurs), is to not go down in a ball of flames, destroying all who circle around the Fire in Dreamland.

FIRE IN DREAMLANDWritten by Rinne Groff Directed by Marissa Wolf
Kyle Beltran, Enver Gjokaj, and Rebecca Naomi Jones. Photo by Joan Marcus.

This is a story where only a mermaid has the power to swim to safety and to lead the horses to dry land. Groff seamlessly weaves the devastation of both a 1911 fire and a Superstorm by the name of Sandy into a tale of passion and the creation of someone’s life project, where redemption and understanding awaits on the other side.  We are all enlivened by the electric Jaap, and how could one not be, by the way he views this complicated world. It’s hypnotic and invigorating, making us all want to ride that wild ride with him, even as we see how creaky his structure that drives him is.  We join quickly with the wonderfully complex Kate, and find compassion and understanding in Lance’s soul searching predicament, riding the wave to a more mature understanding of nature through wisdom and maturity.

FIRE IN DREAMLANDWritten by Rinne Groff Directed by Marissa Wolf
FIRE IN DREAMLAND Written by Rinne Groff Directed by Marissa Wolf Featuring Kyle Beltran, Enver Gjokaj, and Rebecca Naomi Jones Scenic Design by Susan Hilferty Costume Design by Susan Hilferty Lighting Design by Amith Chandrashaker Original Music & Sound Design by Brendan Aanes Prodouction Stage Manager: Buzz Cohen. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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Off Broadway

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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