Last week I went to see a preview of An Early History of Fire, by David Rabe and the New Group’s newest production at Theatre Row.  I’ve seen a number of productions by the New Group in the last year or two; some of which were good and others were lacking. An Early History of Fire falls somewhere in the middle.

The performances were great, but the play didn’t have much a point. About a young man named Danny in a midwestern town in the 1960’s who is longing for a change, An Early History of Fire, shows what happens to his life when he starts dating a girl from the rich part of town while she’s home from college in the east. There are several mentions of fire, but I didn’t fully understand the need to include it in the title of the piece itself. 

I didn’t recognize Idiot alumni Theo Stockman when he burst on the stage at the top of the first act. He was polished looking, not mugging, and speaking clearly. This was the first time I’d seen him truly act; and he was great.  Gordon Clapp also gave a compelling and heartbreaking performance as Danny’s immigrant father who is attempting to have a death grip on his son, as did Claire van der Boom as Karen, Danny’s girlfriend. 

Though I didn’t completely understand the point of An Early History of Fire, I enjoyed the ending as it was hopeful. As always, The New Group has put together a polished new production that is definitely worth a night out at the theatre.

An Early History of Fire plays through May 26th at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row. Click here for more information.

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