by Kestryl Lowrey
published April 18, 2008
now playing Off Broadway at the 3LD Art and Technology
through May 3
A few days ago, I fell, head over heels, for 3-Legged Dog’s production of Charles Mee’s new play, Fire Island. I want to preface this review with a true
concern that my description will not do the production justice. Like the passion of true love,
the total experience of Fire Island defies description and refuses to be encapsulated in meager
Imagine, if you will, stepping through the theatre door and finding yourself on a beach instead of in an audience. Someone approaches you—it’s hard to tell if they are an usher or an actor—and encourages you to help
yourself to the hamburgers at the barbecue or the beer in coolers scattered around the space.
Rather than conventional chairs, beach loungers and cushions are scattered about, and you are welcomed to have a seat wherever you
like. Large-format projections wrap the room, bringing images of water, salt-encrusted
boardwalks, sand, and beach houses to complete the environment. A woman next to me commented
that she wished she had worn her swimsuit. It’s true—it feels like summer has come
The piece begins with one couple, early in their
relationship. We play voyeur to their awkward romance, and they are replaced by another couple,
and another, and another, forming a web of relationships (young, old, gay, straight, perverse, confused, desperate, and countless others)
inhabiting the beach at Fire Island A prolonged meditation on love, Fire Island exhibits the multivocality that theatrical romance so frequently lacks, letting us examine the
angles, close-ups, and panoramic views of each affair. Through the perspective of the
projections, augmented by live music (Tuvanese throat singing, no less), we are given an ecosystem of love, passion, devotion, and
I can’t guarantee that anyone else will see the same play that I saw. With it’s
scattered performers and panoply of projections to echo, distort, and alter the action, it would be impossible for one person to absorb
everything that was occurring. As voyeurs, we are given a thousand windows into the relationships and passions of others, and the effect
strangely mirrors the sensation of falling in love: confusing, all-encompassing, thrilling.
I’ve described the production as best as I can, but my technical descriptions fall short.
There’s no way around it: to really understand Fire Island, you need to grab your beach-wear and
go experience it yourself.
kestryl.lowrey @ stageandcinema.com