Smokefall: Theater review by Adam Feldman
In Noah Haidle's Smokefall, there is a saintly young girl who never says a word and eats dirt straight from a bucket. Her name is Beauty. There are also two fetuses who discuss original sin in a womb that looks like a Vaudeville stage; later, an apple tree busts through the plywood walls of a Midwestern American house. Welcome back to Haidle’s brand of whimsical literalism, where commonplace ideas and character types are tricked out in self-conscious structural gimmicks that serve mainly to gild the obvious.
The play has sailed into New York on winds of critical praise from a production in Chicago (also directed by Anne Kauffman), where perhaps it benefited from some alchemy of cast and space. Here it stars an earnest and unremarkable Zachary Quinto as Haidle’s narrator, who offers “footnotes” to tell us what’s happening, what has happened and what will happen in the future. This device is handy, since so little in Smokefall is actually dramatized. But its evocation of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town only points up, by contrast, the sententious cutesiness of a play that treats, for example, “the world is round” as an insight. This play is not really anyone’s town; it’s a corner of theater, just blowing smoke.—Adam Feldman
Lucille Lortel Theatre (Off Broadway). By Noah Haidle. Directed by Anne Kauffman. With Zachary Quinto. Running time: 1hr 45mins. One intermission.