U of O alumna stars in play about search for meaning in dark places

A Little Fire, the latest play from Ottawa-based presenting series, TACTICS, is full of brilliant actors who are brimming with talent and burning with passion for their craft.

The story begins with Aithne, a teenager who is given a gift from God as a child, in the form of messages she receives from him that she then paints. But when she turns 16 and stops receiving these messages, she loses her sense of self and her life begins to spiral out of control.

A Little Fire was written and directed by Megan Piercey Monafu, which premiered at the Arts Court Theatre on Jan. 22.

TACTICS, which is in its second season, is a series of independent theatre productions curated by University of Ottawa alumna Bronwyn Steinberg. In the newest play of the series, Aithne, played by Emily Bozik, lands behind bars after her life takes an unexpected turn, where she meets Roy, played by Johnny Wideman, a twenty-something frat boy.

As the story takes audiences back into the past, we meet Jem, played by U of O alumna Carol Sinclair, and her father John, a fame-obsessed drunkard. Throughout the play, audiences watch as each character’s past unfolds, and how they struggle to find true meaning and faith in life.

One of the benefits of performances at the Arts Court Theatre is its size, as the smaller venue creates an intimacy between the audience and the actors. This venue allows you to get lost in the story, and engulfs you in the production. The closeness of the stage also allows audiences to watch the emotions in the actor’s faces up close, something that is often lost in flashier productions in larger theatres.

A Little Fire takes advantage of this intimacy, showcasing a certain rawness that only a smaller production can display. It’s stripped down from fancy backdrops and props, depicting sheer, honest emotions and truly demonstrating the talent of its actors.

The play doesn’t hit you all at once—it slowly unravels, shifting from past to present, leaving you constantly on edge as you connect the dots. Although it depicts a serious tone about religion with Aithne’s plight to hear God again, the play adds a humorous twist with its witty banter between the characters, and the dark comedy portrayed in many scenes.

This play will resonate with anyone who has ever wrestled with finding meaning or purpose in their life. Between the tormented soul Roy, the anguished teen Aithne, and the faithless and confused Jem, it’s easy to find at least one character that reflects one’s own struggle in the search for the meaning of life.

Sinclair, who also played three other characters in A Little Fire, is a graduate from the U of O’s theatre program and has been working in the Ottawa theatre scene for a number of years. While playing one character can be difficult enough, Sinclair says that playing four required “very intensive rehearsals,” but that Piercey Monafu “really took the time to delve into every character individually to make sure that they were all full, complex characters.” 

This time and attention to detail is apparent in all of Sinclair’s characters, as well as the emotional range and sincere performances of all the actors. The play, which is showing until Jan. 30, is a great addition to the TACTICS series, and a perfect example of the inventiveness of the Ottawa local theatre scene.

A Little Fire will be showing at the Arts Court Theatre until Jan. 30. Student tickets are $20, and can be purchased online at http://artscourt.ca/events/a-little-fire/, or at the Arts Court box office.