Whitefire Theatre turns up the heat in Sherman Oaks, presenting the world premiere of Firehouse and bringing a bit of the South Bronx to our very own backyard.
Review by Tracy Lynn Schafer
When cop-turned-rookie firemen Brian Boyle (Gerald Downey) steps foot into a South Bronx firehouse, his fellow housemates are suddenly faced with choosing between their brothers in duty, or the public they protect. Brian”™s decision to save his fellow firefighter, over a 12-year old girl from a local crack house fire, ultimately leads to turmoil within the house, and riots in the street below. One fireman, Robert Miranda (Kamar de los Reyes), is hit particularly hard by the turn of events. Almost single-handedly he spearheads the efforts to get to the bottom of it all, unveiling the hidden racism, trust issues, and corruption that bubbles beneath this specific battalion of the FDNY.
Firehouse brings to life the South Bronx neighborhood in which writer Pedro Antonio Garcia was raised. While certain aspects of the story are fictionalized, Garcia blends just the right amount of truth and fiction to keep his audience invested and waiting to see what happens next. The chemistry between the actors portraying the seasoned firemen truly makes you feel like you are “˜hangin”™ with the boys,”™ which allows the audience to feel as if they have a glimpse into life within a New York firehouse.
When asked about the real life events which inspired Firehouse, Garcia is quoted from an excerpt of Broadway World:
Although every issue raised is true, the play is an amalgamation of them. Amadou Diallo was an unarmed African street salesman who was shot and killed by four cops in the South Bronx on February 4, 1999, which happens to be the opening day for this play. I believe the cops-turned-firemen are still on duty, and the community did protest one of the firemen as a result of the Diallo issue. I added the fictionalized account of the death of the girl to spark the debate of police abuse and underlying currents of racism within the Police and Fire Departments. In New York City, about 90 percent of the fire department is white.
While each of Garcia”™s characters seem to be written to propel the play, the cast as a whole was quite a treat to watch. That being said, the performance that stood out the most was that of actor Elvis Nolasco. Challenged with the role of Robert Miranda”™s crack-head brother Pito, Nolasco brings to the stage a magnificent rendition of an addict. Nolasco”™s choices lead to a wonderful mix of pain, poignancy and playfulness. Garcia creates such a mystery with the Pito character in the first half of the play that the payoff in his introduction in the second act is certainly rewarding. One other brief “tip of the hat” to actress Josasara Jinaro, who played Aida Rojas. She was the one female cast member in Firehouse and certainly pulled her own weight.
This specific performance was dedicated to fallen, 36-year veteran, Los Angeles firefighter, Glenn Allen. Allen was killed battling a fire in the Hollywood Hills earlier in the week, and was buried at Our Lady of the Angels the same morning which I attended the play.
Currently playing at the Whitefire Theatre, Firehouse closes on Friday, April 29th, 2011.
13500 Ventura Boulevard,
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Runs until Friday, April 29th, 2011
Fridays ONLY, 8pm
Approximately 120 minutes, including 15-minute intermission
At Door: $25.00
Purchase tickets here or call (323) 822-7898
About the theatre:
The Whitefire was founded in 1982 with a dedication to bringing quality theatre to Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. The Whitefire is located on Ventura Boulevard’s Restaurant Row in Sherman Oaks. The theatre provides professional performance space for independent productions, classes, workshops, casting and rehearsals. Several film and video projects also use the space, including Buena Vista Television, MTV Casting, VH1 Productions, Shana Landsburg Casting, NY Film Academy, Cartoon Network & Marvin Worth Productions. The Theatre is a member of the Valley Theatre League.