I’ll begin this review with two digressions. I recently saw Zachary Quinto on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and totally enjoyed the interview. I’ve admired Quinto as an actor — loved him in “The Glass Menagerie” and his film and TV roles and he was a witty and self-effacing guest. Then the topic of his role in Smokefall came up and the phrase “magical realism” was used. Is that a catchphrase to mean that the audience isn’t going to buy anything they’re witnessing on stage? Does it mean the playwright can take the easy way out if people “don’t get” the play? And my second digression is — was this the same play that the Chicago theater critics fell in love with?
Smokefall tells the story of a family — Brian, the depressed father, Violet, the pregnant and optimistic mother, Beauty, the daughter who’s stopped talking and has taken to eating dirt and drinking paint, and the Colonel, Violet’s dementia-stricken father. Then there’s Footnote — Zachary Quinto’s character and the narrator of most of the first act. We never fully understand what’s led to Brian’s depression or why Beauty has such a strange diet. Then gears shift and Brian Hutchison (Brian) and Quinto inhabit the roles of Violet’s unborn twins in a funny but doesn’t-quite-fit scenario of the meaning of life being discussed by two fetuses. In the second act we fast forward and Beauty is now 95 but hasn’t aged at all (she’s still a tween), one of the fetuses is an unhappy older man in a fraught relationship with his son, and we learn what became of Brian, who abandoned his family.
Mr. Quinto, Mr. Hutchinson and Tom Bloom are very good in their multiple roles and Robin Tunney as Violet has a sweetness and that optimism even as she faces heartache. Maybe because Taylor Richardson as Beauty didn’t talk for the first act I found her role to be the least compelling. I wish that Smokefall had more realism and that the magic supplied from the acting would have been enough. AFW
Lucille Lortel Theater, 121 Christopher Street
Tickets prices: $49.00-$99.00
Discount tickets: available Broadwaybox.com, Theatermania.com
Runs thru: March 20