‘The Arsonists’ is haunting look at power of family ties

Regional premiere takes stage in Lakewood arts district

Posted 7/2/18

The theater was dark already when we arrived at Benchmark Theatre on a Sunday evening for a performance of “The Arsonists” (perhaps a bit too dark). And there was a soundtrack of crickets and …

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‘The Arsonists’ is haunting look at power of family ties

Regional premiere takes stage in Lakewood arts district

Posted

The theater was dark already when we arrived at Benchmark Theatre on a Sunday evening for a performance of “The Arsonists” (perhaps a bit too dark). And there was a soundtrack of crickets and other swampy critters, plus a bit of moody music to set the scene … Walls of a bare cabin let firelight flicker through the slats.

Lights came up briefly for a welcome from Benchmark’s co-producer, Rachel Rogers, and darkness returned as we listened to a frustrated, profane woman, trying to move a heavy bundle into the ramshackle cabin and across the floor to a hole at the back corner where she tears at the floor and eventually dumps her burden …

As light came on again, a distraught young woman, known in the script as M, appears (Florida native Rebakah Goldberg, recently welcomed in the Denver theater community). She roams the little space — talking, restless, frightened, searching? M spies a leather jacket in a cardboard box on the floor. She clasps it to her, smelling and hugging it, puts it on and obviously feels better. It’s her late father’s jacket and we learn that the family business, as it were, is arson in the Florida swamps, where vegetation flares and burns quickly.

“The Arsonists,” a dark work by playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger, is in a new play’s process of becoming recognized. It was first produced by three member theaters as a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere. (Curious Theatre in Denver is an NNPN member and participates in a similar process.) Benchmark, in its second season, housed in the former Edge space, seeks strong new material and presents the regional premiere of “The Arsonists” — giving the work an additional boost along its path.

With haunting music, we follow a father-daughter tale inspired by the Greek classic legend of “Electra,” about a daughter who does not want to let her father go …

Stephen Weitz of Boulder Ensemble Theatre is the discerning director.

H, the desperate father, played by skilled local actor Michael Morgan, appears suddenly to tell M that she left part of him back at the death scene … he can’t totally depart until he is made whole … She of course goes to search for it …

Conversation between the pair is alternately spooky, poetic and funny, as they talk about the past, and the late mother … A strong, loving relationship between father and daughter lights the interaction throughout, although the relationship is probably far from the experience of most audience members.

Called “a play with music,” this haunting production will send you home with immediate memories of strong performance — and perhaps a backward glimpse of one’s own ancestry somewhere?

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