By Sally Nemeth
Directed by Sandy Shinner
Produced by Shattered Globe Theatre
At Theater Wit, Chicago
Imaginative set underscores story of a tragedy and the grieving process of those left behind
Shattered Globe Theatre, under the imaginative direction by Sandy Shinner, have mounted a haunting and deeply emotional story about the demise of a steel town, Birmingham, Alabama in 1978 coupled with a tragic mill fire that took several lives. Utilizing a terrific, steel mill-like set (designed by Jeff Bauer), Mill Fire is told through the three person Widows who act as a Greek chorus commenting on the sorrow of the Widows (Deanna Reed-Foster, Daria Harper, Angie Shriner).
Told through a series of flashbacks and present time, Mill Fire features several unforgettable characters including two wives of steel workers.
We meet Marlene (Kate LoConti) and her husband Champ (Drew Schad) and we see how in love and sensual they were as young marrieds. When Champ is burned over 80 % of his body in a mysterious mill fire, Marlene starts on her unconventional process that goes from shock to rage to her own personal grieving process.
We also meet Sunny (Rebecca Jordan), the lonely, frustrated drunken wife of the mill foreman, Bo (Ken Bradley) who may or may not have contributed to the mysterious fire. he did suffer hand burns pulling Champ from the fire. Bo and Sunny have a chance to rekindle the lost spark in their marriage as a result of the tragic fire.
As the flashbacks demonstrate the pressure the steel companies face from a dwindling marker for steel, union pressure to save jobs and the stress from undermanned steel mills, a tragedy became more likely. Sprinkled throughout are the Widows who expound on the conventional grieving they experience after their loss.
But, Marlene is particularly have her own struggle dealing with Champs death especially after witnessing him lying naked with burns over 80 % of his body and with little hope of him surviving. Her malaise renders her incapable of moving through the standard stages of grief. Her sorrow is deep seated and crippling. When she not only refuses to accept the steel company’s settlement offer but she agrees to sign a paper forfeiting her right to sue the firm, the other survivors pressure her to reconsider since the policy of the company is to settle with all or no one.
Mill Fire examines the many definitions of sorrow as well as the vast problems of moving on with life. We care and empathize with the Widows and the featured characters. Ken bradley, Rebecca Jordan, Drew Schad, and especially Kate LoConti gave yeoman performances as they each struggle with the mourning process. This show rivets into our heartstrings.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: April 27, 2014
For more info checkout the Mill Fire page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-975-8150, www.theaterwit.org, tickets $30, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 1 hour, 50 minutes with intermission, through June 7, 2014