Max Berry, Contributing Critic - New York City
“Friendly’s Fire” is a new play by John Patrick Bray, following Gulf War veteran, Guy Friendly (Matthew Weitz), as he struggles to maintain control of his mind and emotions as a drug attack from a recent lover brings out his, already prominent, PTSD. He creates visions and a whole cast of characters that help guide him to a deeper understanding of himself. Along for the ride is his friend Todd (Adeyinka Adebola), who, not seeing any of what Friendly is seeing, goes along in the hopes that, while they wait for help, he can understand his friend just a little better. What follows is a play incredibly moving in story and almost psychedelic in atmosphere.
The various outlandish characters from Friendly’s mind give the otherwise serious story a child-like feel. This, coupled with the very real and very serious circumstances of war, loss, and PTSD, creates a startling contrast. We get the sense that even though the characters are rather silly (such as an old man appearing from within a toilet, the mysterious Queen Bee, and a singing bear), they represent something far more sinister. This is also illustrated by Friendly’s desperate and fearful way of moving through the story and poor Todd’s frightened expressions as he watches his friend run frantically about his house speaking of the north pole and talking bees. We as the audience are given both perspectives, the magical and the real, and therefore are able to link each event like a puzzle, piecing together how each fantasy character relates to the real struggles at hand. This play is rich in metaphor and the excitement builds as each connection is made. The metaphorical portions of the play were so rich that they partially overshadowed the more realistic scenes that bookended the play. These felt slightly out of place but by no means enough to derail the story.
“Friendly’s Fire” had great performances all around but of course, the stand-out has to go to Matthew Weitz as Guy Friendly. Weitz had a lot to juggle, having to have an understanding of both Friendly’s real world as well as the abstract one that he creates for himself and he had to go to some seriously dark places. Weitz took on all of this with intelligence and grace and turned out a performance that was full of whimsy and vulnerability.
A few more shoutouts have to go to the incredible set design by Daniel Hogan, the projection design by Taylor Edelle Stuart, and the lighting design by Zac Goin. Hogan’s set blended the real and the abstract perfectly, taking advantage of the bee motif and incorporating a beautiful honeycomb design into Friendly’s home. Stuarts projections, being abstract in nature and almost a visual representation of the sound and feel of the play, added to the feeling of being tripped out on drugs and further strained our understanding of what reality was. Goin’s lighting was also a huge help in this sensation, further adding to the confused atmosphere.
All around, “Friendly’s Fire” was an adventure. I walked out of the theatre with a feeling that I couldn’t quite place. A feeling that a great change had happened but I wasn’t sure what exactly. It kept me engaged. It moved me. It left me with plenty of questions and desperate for more. And isn’t that what we all hope to get from good theatre?
“Friendly’s Fire” was written by John Patrick Bray and directed by Anna Hogan.
It features: Matthew Weitz, Adeyinka Adebola, Desiree Pinol, Kyle Porter, William Serri, Ita Korenzecher, Hannah Taylor, and Johnny Blaze Leavitt
With set design by Daniel Hogan, projections by Taylor Edelle Stuart, and lighting design by Zac Goin.
It runs at Theater at the 14th Street Y (344 East 14th Street New York, NY 10003) Wednesday, May 15 at 3:00 pm & 8:00 pm, Thursday, May 16 at 8:00 pm, Friday, May 17 at 8:00 pm, Saturday, May 18 at 8:00 pm, Sunday, May 19 at 5:00 pm.
“Friendly’s Fire” is presented by Rising Sun Performance Company.
For more information go to: https://14streety.secure.force.com/ticket#details_a0S36000007OsxgEAC