In ‘Fireflies,’ Racism, Sexuality, and a 1960s Inferno

Courtesy Ahron R. Foster

All seems tranquil at the outset of Fireflies. We first see Olivia (DeWanda Wise), a black housewife in her well-appointed 1960s kitchen, sneaking a cigarette before her husband Charles (Khris Davis) returns home. But this glancing tableau of domestic mischief proves deceptively light.

In this world premiere of Donja R. Love’s play, directed by Saheem Ali at the Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater, it is the autumn of 1963 “somewhere down South, where the sky is on fire.”

That we can see Alex Basco Koch’s projections of clouds that surround Arnulfo Maldonado’s elegant, simple kitchen staging. This sky is like a vividly embracing coat designed by Douglas Sirk at his most paint splash-happy. At its most livid it is as red as blood or deep fire­—and it meaningfully surrounds Olivia and Charles.

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