Ostensibly Fireworks is a play abut the effect of war on children (as I read the synopsis), but it’s clearly just as much about the effect of war on adults; the parents of our two young protagonists, Lubna and Khalil, are slowly crumbling under the relentless pressure of constant imprisonment and impending death. Outside is definitely not safe; inside is only maybe safe; you can only tell stories to each other and hope that the hand of death passes over you.
But meanwhile, the little families holding on like weeds in a sidewalk are losing their ability to stay sane and support each other. Lubna’s mother Nahla (Sirine Saba) cannot let go of the grief for her young, dead son; she idolizes her memories of him and has utterly abandoned any connection to her husband and (living) daughter and talks frequently of wanting to join him. Her husband Khalid (Saleh Bakri) is trying to maintain the sanity in his household singlehandedly, telling a wide variety of lies to his daughter both about her mother and about the situation outside (with the “fireworks” in the sky). Lubna tells herself stories about visitors from the world of the dead, horribly informed by having seen too many recently dead people. Meanwhile her friend and neighbor, Khalil, is caught up in power and violence and seems to have lost both his ability to be afraid of dying as well as any clear concept of the consequences of death. His parents are much saner, but they seem to be harboring a possibly explosive stranger in their midst – their son.
Although a short play with a few memorable moments, I found this play hard to buy in to. In part, it’s due to the acting of the children (why do they have British accents when their parents don’t) but also due to how they were written. I believe that children will play “checkpoint soldiers” just as children now are playing “burn the captive alive in a cage,” but Khalil’s strange obsession with hitting and violence didn’t ring right with me. And the friendship between the two children also didn’t seem to have much of a basis to it. I think I could have been made to believe that they had just formed a friendship because there was no one left, but I wasn’t seeing the naturalism I expect in children. Overall, it seemed like the writer had some key concepts and scenes she wanted to write, and her characters had to take a back seat to where she wanted to go. I almost completely forgot about it after I saw it; but a bit more work and this idea would certainly resonate in conflict after conflict – God knows it probably reflects the daily life in the Ukraine as well as the Palestine.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, March 12, 2014. The show has since closed.)