Review: ‘That Time the House Burned Down” presented by Fresh Ink Theatre

Angelica Potter

OnStage Boston Critic


BOSTON, MA - MJ Halberstadt’s newest play ‘That Time the House Burned Down’, currently playing at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, mixes a family’s complex history and relationships with much needed humor. The family includes two adopted pre-teen children whose parents refuse to tell them the truth and instead shelter them from any outside influence that may push them to question their parents and the past. But with the help of an American Girl doll and the continuously reincarnated soul of the family pets, truths are revealed that allow this family to connect like never before. Featuring a cast of six wonderfully dynamic actors with direction by Stephanie LeBolt, this play offers the audience a unique and modern theatrical experience.

The show opens with And a half, the soul, fantastically portrayed by Noah Simes, explaining to the audience the story which is about to unfold before them. From then on the audience was not only intrigued but amused at the real-to-life dramatic comedy played out before them. The aforementioned Noah Simes did a superb job bringing the five pets of the story to life by using nicely crafted puppets, by Marc Ewart, and differentiated vocals. The relationship between him and Karma, Daughtery’s favorite doll played by Lizzie Milanovich, was interesting to watch. Karma pushes Daughtery, played by Ally Dawson, to ask her mother the hard questions, like why don’t we [the members of their family] look the same? Milanovich did a great job portraying her multidimensional character, while Dawson brought both strength and innocence to hers. Her playful fights with younger brother Sonny, wonderfully played by Marc Pierre, were entertainingly realistic. Mommy, played by Karina Beleno Carney, and Daddy, played by Scot Colford, complimented each other’s characters very well. While Mommy was overbearing and fiercely protective, Daddy was more reserved but clearly wanted to keep his family happy. 

Photo: (from left to right) Ally Dawson, Noah Simes, Marc Pierre. Photo courtesy Fresh Ink Theatre

Photo: (from left to right) Ally Dawson, Noah Simes, Marc Pierre. Photo courtesy Fresh Ink Theatre

The set designed by Ryan Bates featured lots of colorful child toys. The most inventive use of the toys was as a stage curtain of sorts. The subtle use of lighting, designed by Gifford Williams, allowed the colorfulness of the toy room set to stand out. Andrew Duncan Will, sound designer, added nicely placed ethereal echoing into various scenes that added to the overall production quality.  

Though the play took a few unexpected turns which further complicated the plot, the basis of the play is well developed.  In my opinion, however, it could use some revisiting to smooth out some of the unexpected and not fully completed story lines and overall themes. That being said, the play overall was well-received by the audience who seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. 

The play runs one hour and forty-five minutes with no intermission. This production runs until April 23rd with performances at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. For tickets and more information visit

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