Theatre Review

Epic presents Ann Deavere Smith's 'Fires in the Mirror'

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You may remember the Crown Heights Riots in Brooklyn back in 1991. The community exploded as the African-American community clashed with their Hacidic Lubavitcher Jewish neighbors after a car driven by a Jewish man kills a young black boy.

Ann Deaver Smith tells the story through a theatrical device that has been called “Verbatim Theatre,” taking the exact words from interviews with real people (some well known and others not) and putting them in the mouths of actors.

The play was originally done as a monologue, but Director Kevin Broccoli has opened it up by using 15 actors playing 26 people. Broccoli has dressed the actors all in black and set them in the intimate black box theatre at 50 Rolfe St. in Cranston.

Chairs, a bench and three hanging light bulbs are all that are needed to create a somber mood, as they actors speak the words of Angela Davis, Rev. Al Sharpton, two rabbis, and many members of both the Jewish and black communities.

The acting is first class, as the men and women assume their characters. Standouts are Angelique Dina, who plays three characters, including Sharpton, plus Jeffrey Ouelette, who has a shorter but mesmerizing soliloquy as Rabbi Joseph Spielmon.

The play covers a lot of territory, centering on what makes a community and how can a community come together and be healed in spite of tremendous cultural differences. There are many kinds of bias as people see things differently through their individual mirrors and there is plenty of blame and injustice to go around.

How people react to violence and how they view others who are different from them and those who are in power is seen through the use of the verbatim interviews. It makes for powerful theatre.

“Fires in the Mirror” is at Epic Theatre, 50 Rolfe St., Cranston, through September 28. Tickets are $15. Reserve tickets at www.epictheatre.org.

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