Review: “Inferno! Fire at the Cocoanut Grove: 1942” at Theatre 80 St. Marks

Anthony J. Piccione

  • New York Critic

The massive loss of life – especially when it’s as many of 492 people – is a horrifically sad incident, in and of itself. For the survivors and the people who remember, including those who didn’t survive completely unscathed, it leaves an emotional and psychological scar that their bound to carry for the rest of their life. That’s exactly the message which James Hansen Prince seems to be trying to show his audience in his period piece entitled “Inferno! Fire at the Cocoanut Grove: 1942” about a tragic real-life fire that occurred at a supper club in Boston in 1942.

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As the title suggests, the play is set in the early 1940s, and has the tone and a hint of the cinematic flare of an old school Hollywood melodrama like the films that defined that time period, as it builds up toward the climactic tragedy toward the end of the 1st act, and the revelations of what happens afterwards in the 2nd act. The last 30 minutes or so drags on a bit, and after a few of the closing monologues, I was left with varying impressions that the play might as well have just ending there. However, while the script perhaps could have been a bit shorter in some areas, the concept of the play is intriguing enough to make it worth seeing.

Staged in the massive Theatre 80 St. Marks, the cast of the show does a fine job at bringing these characters, with a few of them also displaying a fair amount of singing talent over the course of the night, as well. The set design and projections each help set the tone and atmosphere this play seems to be trying to achieve, as well. Having said that, it’s worth wondering whether the additional use of music could have enhanced this tone further, making this reviewer ponder what could have been, in this regard.

I have to admit, I felt a bit sorry to see that I was among a relatively light audience during the night I attended this show. While it may not have been a bit too long, and it certainly wasn’t the strongest piece I’d seen this year, it was nonetheless good enough to be deserving of a larger audience. I hope that people reading this will catch this show during its final performances, and in any case, I’d certainly be interested to see this play revived again, in another incarnation.

 

INFERNO! FIRE AT THE COCOANUT GROVE: 1942

 “Inferno! Fire at the Cocoanut Grove: 1942” stars Penny Gunther, Katie Lummus, Kara Rainer, Jake Bowman, Matt Gunther, Gabriel Ethridge, Zoe Settle, Robin Clayton, Steven Prince, Hannah Matusow, Stephanie Oustalet, and James Hansen Prince.

“Inferno! Fire at the Cocoanut Grove: 1942” is written and directed by James Hansen Prince, featuring set design by Jim Finger, costume design by Jeulet Noyes, sound design by Joshua Prince, and stage manager Penny Gunther.

“Inferno! Fire at the Cocoanut Grove: 1942” – presented by the Core Theatre Company – runs at Theatre 80 St. Marks, located at 80 St. Marks Place, New York, NY, from November 21st-December 16th. For more information, please visit www.thecoretheatre.org.