Search This Site

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review- Mill Fire (Retro Productions)

The Fab Marquee review by Antonio Miniño.

When deprived of someone we have built a life with, people tend to react in different ways: some self-destruct, others become stronger; then there are the few that just don’t open up to grief. When a community is robbed of several loved ones, this is personified on a larger scale. Sometimes there is an air of community and solidarity, but often there is hatred and contempt. Playwright Sally Nemeth aims to gather all these scenarios in Mill Fire, but seems to miss the bull’s-eye.

Mill Fire is set in the late 1970’s, in a small steel town that has lost a few of their hard working men to a disastrous fire in the Mill. Marlene (Lauren Kelston) is a young wife in her mid 20’s who loses her beloved husband Champ (Mike Mihm), and is reminded of his tragic demise by his brother Bo (Mark Armstrong) who survived the fire. Bo has his own set of problems, including his drunk wife Sunny (Kristen Vaughan) and the huge guilt of probably being held accountable for the accident—drinking painkillers on the job never leads to anything good.

Lauren Kelston as Maureen & Mike Mihm as Champ.

Marlene is the black sheep that just won’t do things the proper way. She won’t grieve in a proper fashion, and she won’t take blood money from the Mill Company like the rest of the bereaving housewives. Nemeth recounts the events with flashbacks to help us further understand that day of destruction. Three widows (Heather E. Cunningham, Elise Rovinsky, and Amiende Negbenebor) are added in a tone of Greek Chorus that only clutters an already crutched text.

That gray day, Marlene’s efforts to try and get Champ to stay home and not go to work, with sexual innuendos and lovely caresses, fall short from getting us to care for the couple. The same applies to Bo and Sunny in the presentation of a formulaic troubled household. What Nemeth creates in Mill Fire are beautiful moments of emotional discharge and earnest answers to a heavy situation without connecting the instances fluidly.

Mike Mihm as Champ & Mark Armstrong as Bo.

Director Angela Astle tries to tackle Nemeth’s creation with beautiful tableaus that seem to not correlate with the play. Astle has a keen eye for casting, as all the actors were refreshingly powerful and astute in their portrayals.

Lauren Kelston as Marlene attacks the play with strength and zest; Mark Armstrong delivered a still virtue to his character and graced all situations with momentum and honesty. High praises to Kristen Vaughan, who handled Sunny’s alcoholism with compassion, and showed us the many layers of loneliness while alongside others.

Jack and Rebecca Cunningham did an exquisite job at turning the Spoon Theatre into an appropriate 70’s setting. The costumes by Kathryn Squitieri also gave this world the finished effect of a “retro production.”

Mill Fire might have its problems, but the talented cast compensates.

Retro Productions presents
Sally Nemeth’s
Mill Fire
directed by Angela Astle
May 7th-May 24th, 2008
The Spoon Theatre

Schedule: Monday, Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm.
Tickets: $25.00, $18.00 for students and seniors; 212-352-3101 or 866-811-4111 or

The Spoon Theatre | 38 West 38th Street , 5th Floor | Manhattan.

No comments: