One can usually get a good feeling for what to expect from a theatrical show when you first walk in. “The Arsonists” at Benchmark Theatre is no different.
Upon entering the theater audiences are welcomed by an eerie fog filled cabin set in the woods. The feeling of damp southern moisture and the quiet chirp of crickets signal right away, you are in for an adventure set far away from your modern convinces.
Jacqueline Goldfinger’s “The Arsonists” about a father-daughter arson team in 1990s Florida is making its regional premiere at Benchmark Theatre in the 40 West Arts District. This deceivingly simple story about a daughter dealing with the death of her father after an arson job goes wrong is a quick one-act play that might seem shallow at the start but quickly sparks the audience’s interest in this family drama. The cast consists of just two actors, Rebakah Goldberg and Michael Morgant, who bring a high level of intensity and emotion to their roles. The play starts with Goldberg’s character, rushing onto the stage screaming, cussing, and yelling. A scene that could have been rushed over by many actors and directors but was stretched out for the effect and emotional weight of the situation by director Stephen Weitz.
The pacing and understanding of the story is where Weitz ignites the production. He took this seemingly short and brief play and found the moments that needed to breathe and let this stellar cast hold on to them.
This is not just a work about a southern girl dealing with the loss of her father and what that means for her future, Goldfinger seamlessly weaves a layer of Greek mythology into the piece adding more depth to these two. Unfortunately, that does not give them enough breadth and story to create the kind of characters you are obsessive and make you think about them for days to come.
The show’s most compelling and at times the most interesting aspect though was its scenic and lighting design. Christopher Waller, scenic, and Neil Trugilo, lighting, are both company members of Benchmark Theatre and created a world that looked so realistic, you might have thought they were designed by the same person. There was never a moment when the two were out of sync, more often than not, they complimented each other and elevated one another to a level not be possible on their own.
Benchmark has produced a play that engulfs its audiences and gives them something to ponder until the flames die down and you are simply left with a memory of what was.
“The Arsonists”: Ticket information
- Now through July 21
- Written by Jacqueline Goldfinger
- Directed by Stephen Weitz
- Featuring Rebakah Goldberg and Michael Morgan
- At the 40 West Arts District, 1560 Teller St., Lakewood
- Performances 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays; and 8 p.m. Thursdays, July 12 and 19 only. (No performance on Friday, July 6.)
- Tickets $20-$30
- Go to benchmarktheatre.com