“Time past and time future allow but a little consciousness. To be conscious is not to be in time. But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden, the moment in the arbour where the rain beat, the moment in the draughty church at smokefall. Be remembered; involved with past and future. Only through time time is conquered.” This T.S. Eliot poem from The Four Quartets sets the scene and provides the title for MCC Theater’s Smokefall. What follows is an existential night of theatre moving through life and time while merging realism, fantasy, magic, and even a little bit of vaudeville.
At first glance, Smokefall shows a wooden house, a normal family home one has when growing up. The daily routine commences- pregnant mother Violet assembles breakfast, father Daniel gets ready for work, daughter Beauty and grandfather Colonel prepare for their days. What looks like the quintessential “normal” family is quickly struck away, as Footnote, played by Zachary Quinto (The Glass Menagerie, Angels in America American Horror Story, Heroes) narrates the inner workers of each character, including the two unborn twins. What seems happy on the outside harbors some deeper darker secrets.
The morning unfolds throughout Act 1, as we learn how each family member’s life is about to change forever and the consequences it has on the others. Finally, Violet goes into labor, and we dive into the world of the twins, who exchange views on the world they are about to enter into, leading to hard questions and difficult decisions. Act 2 jumps into the future, as one of the twins has grown and has a son of his own. It is here that Eliot’s poem truly becomes realized, as time constantly shifts back and forth, showing the audience how the past and future coexist and everything comes together. Events from the past play out alongside the characters in the present, and they all interact with one another, showcasing how fragile and simply symbolic time really is.
The entire cast was moving and provocative, many doubling as several different characters or in various stages of life. The women particularly stood out. Taylor Richardson’s (Annie) Beauty, at 14-years-old shows a tremendous amount of maturity in her performance, specifically in the second act. Robin Tuney (The Craft, The Mentalist, Prison Break) is captivating in her theatrical debut as Violet, as we see her shifting between a hopeful expectant mother, an optimistic young lover, and a woman who has been crushed. Zachary Quinto conquers the most roles, tripling as Footnote, Fetus Two, and Samuel- each distinct in their mannerisms and philosophers. Quinto was particularly enrapturing when he was simply watching the action developing in front or around him; he was constantly engaged and reactive.
The show runs at 1 hour 40 minutes (including intermission) and the pace is perfect. You are constantly absorbed in what is happening, nothing ever felt slow or dragging. If you’re interested in a show that will warm your heart but also gasp as you’re on the edge of your seat- especially one that will make you think about time and life- check out Smokefall at the MCC Theater’s Lucille Lortel Theatre (231 W 29th St.) before it blows away March 20th.
Review By: April Sigler
Photos By:Tina Fineberg