Went to see volume of smoke on Saturday. I went late enough to have read the thoughts of a few others, and the review in Time Out and had a few chats with people about it. When you're Isaac Butler, and you have a rather popular blog... you'll have a fair amount of conversation about what you're presenting.
I was prepared, therefore, to have this reaction: "Isaac's direction is excellent, the design in beautiful, the play leaves something to be desired."
The reaction I actually had was: "Isaac's direction is top-notch, the design and look of the show is on par with the best you'll see on this scale, the cast was uniformly entertaining and heartfelt, and Clay McLeod's Chapman's play is lovely."
volume of smoke is, essentially, Spoon River Anthology for the Great Richmond Theater Fire of 1811. It's a tribute to that work, or, more specifically, to the theatrical adaptation. If you're a fan of Spoon River, then you'll probably love this piece.
You might not be. volume of smoke, just like Spoon River, lacks many of the things that we've come to expect out of new works. We expect tricks of time, we expect characters that shock us, we expect a subversion of genre, a wink to the audience, something to come in and smash up the sincerity. volume of smoke does none of these things... it's utterly sincere. Which is, in this day and age, a blessing and a curse. It's hard, I know, to get a truly emotional moment to register with an audience so innundated with emotional manipultion and so steeled against tragedy. It's also a worthy undertaking to find something specific and true, and anthologize it, and remember it.
Is the play perfect? None are. But it's a rare sort of play to see in the New York circuit these days... a brave choice and a fine, fine production.
One can, I'm told, purchase tickets hereabouts.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.