Writer: Lauren Letellier
Director: Kel Haney
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
The wonderful thing about the New York International Fringe Festival, is the opportunity it gives to so many new creators of live theatre. Yes, there are a bevy of young, excited grads, and a fair amount of people in their thirties who used to be those fresh-faced grads themselves, but another contingency of fringe festivals is the performer who wasn’t always trying to be a performer (or writer, director, etc). Lauren Letellier used to work in public relations. As it turns out, she also had a charismatic, alcoholic mother. Those two facts are intertwined, sometimes humorously and sometimes gravely, in The Fiery Sword of Justice.
A small white box studio theatre becomes, at times, an executive conference room, the house Lauren grew up in, or a magical moment with no where or when. It is peopled with coworkers, family members, and friends. For the most part, Ms. Letellier does a wonderful job making the character transitions smooth, simple, and distinct. With the addition or removal of glasses, the raising of an eyebrow, or the flip of a wrist, she can implant a conversation among four characters, where only one actor sits.
Direction, by Kel Haney, is a bit stilted. At times, there is a use of the stage space simply because it is there, and not because it serves the storytelling. Various items are pantomimed in a very childlike way, as opposed to simply and theatrically. If a character is using a computer, one shouldn’t hear the actor’s fingers tapping on the table. The magic of theatre is in the creation of anything out of nothing, and this reviewer wants to see the telephone in the actor’s hand, or the computer on the desk.
There are unfortunate tropes that should be avoided in a one-person show, and The Fiery Sword of Justice walks head first into some of them. There is a short diatribe against workplace unhappiness that doesn’t serve the script well. At one point Ms. Letellier sings a funny song about layoffs, at an office Christmas party, but it would have been funnier if she were louder and the music were quieter. There are direct addresses to the audience that break the flow of the piece in a particularly incongruous fashion. One wonders where the emotional depth is from the teller of a story that, on paper, has the potential for so much human connection and exploration.
Keeping in mind that fringe shows tend to be in a workshop phase of sorts, The Fiery Sword was brandished well. With humor, a sympathetic main character, a mostly well-woven story, and a musical number or two, it has everything in place to be a very entertaining and provocative night at the theatre.
Reviewed on 22nd August 2014