by Ed Malin · June 30, 2015
Gabriel Wright , Andrea Cordaro, Michael Romeo Ruocco | David Anthony
Rising Sun Performance Company brings The Firebird by Tim Errickson to this year’s Planet Connections Theatre Festivity. Brian Gillespie directs. This performance supports the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps injured veterans. Errickson directed Rising Sun’s award-winning effort Donkey in the same festivity last year, so I’m sure you’re wondering what they’ve come up with now. And to Brooklyn we go!
In the old neighborhood, home of garages and women who speak their minds, Danny (Gabriel Wright) is invited to pay a visit to his old friend, Ricky (Michael Romeo Ruocco). Danny’s many-year absence since school can be interpreted as haughtiness. Ever since Danny’s parents sold their property and fell out with Ricky’s parents, Joe (R. Paul Hamilton) and Irene (Jacqueline Sydney), Danny has not shown his face in Brooklyn. It’s the kind of place where pride governs behavior, and “fuck you” is a multi-mood salutation. A place which has the stuff of Drama. Joe is fixing up a 1993 Firebird Trans Am, which was supposed to go to Ricky’s sister. However, if she doesn’t go off to college then the car could be Ricky’s, or perhaps Danny could buy it. This is one of the interesting conflicts in the play. There is also Joe‘s failing auto repair business, which Ricky is helping to keep afloat through noble hustling; some embezzlement may be involved, which leads to someone setting a client’s car on fire as a warning. If that weren’t ominous and beautiful enough, Ricky’s girlfriend Marci (Andrea Cordaro) used to go out with Danny. In the present, who is trying to take care of whom? Irene wants Danny to buy the Firebird, thus giving the family some cash, but Ricky, who believes he is adequately taking care of the family, won’t allow it. Marci believes she can take care of Ricky better than Irene, who thinks Marci is trash. Joe offers to sell his business, the car and anything else he has to pay his debts, but Ricky just knows he has it under control. At the local bar run by Abe (James T. Ware), a guy Danny and Ricky used to play basketball with back in the day, there are some reminders of how people do business in Brooklyn. Wealth may not buy happiness, but in this play we can really see why people strive for either or both.
Mythological high stakes abound. Like the Trans Am in Knight Rider, does the car have a mind of its own, effectively controlling the characters’ destinies? As in the Russian tale of the Firebird, which youth will end up with the Princess?
Marci doesn’t know, but honestly tells Danny: “This thing with him and me is only one-sided, and it's more than we ever had. That's fucked up but it's true.” The dialogue, direction and acting are solid. Brooklyn might as well be ancient Thebes, since all the intergenerational conflicts, power struggles and tragic flaws can be found there. Fortunately, this play makes you feel good afterwards and appreciate what you have. Hail, tragedy.