Suffolk Community College Theatre Arts Department’s latest production is emotionally captivating. “Mill Fire” is one of the best productions put on by the department in a while. It is through the combined efforts of the entire company that audiences understand the powerful message of the play: being able to move forward even when it seems impossible.
Playwright Sally Nemeth’s play is set in contemporary Birmingham, Alabama and follows a widower named Marlene (Heather Legnosky) who struggles to come to terms with the death of her mill-worker husband named Champ (Jesse Lewis). Additionally, the audience witnesses the hardships that her brother Bo (Joseph Winchell) faces and how the cause of Champ’s death affects his ability to be a good husband to his wife Sunny (Moriah Ritchie), as well as the conflicts he battles within himself.
“Mill Fire” is directed by Steven Lantz-Gefroh, a renowned professor of the Theatre Arts Department. He has directed some groundbreaking productions including “Hair”, “Pvt. Wars”, and “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940”. Here he is able to push his cast to rehearse hard each day so that they are able to personify the lives of their characters and make them relatable to their audience.
Assistant Directors Avery Orvis and Daniel Pavacic collaborated with Gefroh to bring the play to life by preparing the cast for some of the toughest scenes. Also, stage managers Jerilyn Toole and Claire Haussner contributed to the production by making sure that each scene was on cue.
One of the highlights of “Mill Fire” is Legnosky’s performance, who acts with passion to create a character driven through her tears and intensity of her voice. Another great performance can be seen from Winchell and Ritchie’s characters who, in a scene where they have a violent argument over what has become of them, the audience witnesses and experiences the regretfulness that is lying inside of them both.
Their disdain for each other can also be seen when Winchell’s character violently knocks everything off of the table, leaving Ritchie’s character upset and fearful. The costumes are unique because they are handcrafted by the Theatre department and are created specifically for each cast member. Also, while the music is mostly pre-recorded, the pre-show is performed by the entire cast. Each cast member contributes a different element to familiar songs that they perform whether that be from playing an instrument or singing.
“Mill Fire” combines emotions of sadness, empathy, love and occasionally humor. Through the experience of its characters, you will be amazed by how captivating the play is. With continuing hard work, there is no doubt that these actors and actresses will make it to Broadway someday.