DiFusco weds a poetic gift to his passion, leavened with a sense of humor. Though longer than necessary, the play is never boring walkinthrufirela.html
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Walkin' Thru the Fire
Joe Papp, late founder of New York's Public Theatre, told me in a 1983 interview, "No matter what a playwright says he's writing about, he's always writing about the family. It's the writer's wound."
John DiFusco, whose 1985 smash hit Tracers Papp produced after its debut here at The Odyssey Theatre, created that play about and with other Viet Nam veterans. It could be considered the kind of family bonding only experienced by men in wartime. In his new play Walk'n Thru The Fire, DiFusco brackets Tracers with the years before and after. Though autobiographical, it's not a one-man play. Two men and two women play all the other characters, including DiFusco's nine siblings, five of whom die before the age of 60. By the play's end, we feel we know them all quite well.
Born in Webster, MA, to a Scandinavian mother and non-observant Catholic father who worked his way up from laborer to company owner, the children didn't know what to do when their father directed them to pray for their little sister, Jill, who was fatally burned in a home accident. John's brother Freddie, the childhood companion closest to him in age, dies in a motorcycle accident . In a ghastly twist of fate, sister Pat dies while the family gathers for Mike's funeral and the event becomes a double funeral with two open caskets for the two heart failure victims. Big sister Dolly, John's first dancing partner, succumbs to lung cancer. A candle is lit and a temple bell rings as each sibling mimes flying away. Ghosts and nightmares also populate the play.
An inner and personal journey, the play uses these tragedies to question the existence of God and explores different kinds of worship, from a stunning Native American ritual to the Oriental meditative form, Tai Chi. Staged and directed with intuitive grace and spare elegance by Che'Rae Adams and Janet Roston, the simple set, a sort of altar with Buddhist, Catholic and Native American images designed by Sara Ryung Clement, profits from the always estimable J. Kent Inasy's lighting design.
The cast succeeded in seamlessly integrating two understudies into the performance viewed. Michael Hampton was completely there and Michelle Flowers, less experienced, grew into her roles as the evening progressed. Eileen O'Connell and Michael T. Kachingwe proved to be versatile chameleons and DiFusco, playing himself, of course, revealed a funny, passionate poetic artist, as well as the dark corners of the alcoholism he struggled to overcome and the nightmares he finally faced down.
DiFusco weds a poetic gift to his passion, leavened with a sense of humor. Though longer than necessary, the play is never boring. At the end of it all, DiFusco leaves us with Baba Ram Dass's credo "Be here now!" It's good to have a second play from this talented writer and better to see him profiting from the past to celebrate the present.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
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