‘Fireflies’ at PTC: An Approachable and Cozy Night of Theatre


Joy Franz in “Fireflies” at Pioneer Theatre Company. (Courtesy pioneertheatre.org)

By Luke Jackson


On the Pioneer Memorial Theatre stage, the quaint home of retired schoolteacher Eleanor Bannister sits in front of us. It’s everything you’d expect from a 60-something woman living in 1995 small-town Texas. The blue and orange dusk sky provides a background to the chorus of lively singing birds. Just as cozy comfort begins to set in, the theatre goes black, lighting strikes, the 500-year-old woman sitting in front of me nearly has a heart attack. What a way to begin a night at the theater.

An Untraditional Coming of Age Story

The heavy excitement of the opening seconds of “Fireflies” quickly drifts back into old-fashioned mundanity. Over the next two hours, we learn more about Eleanor Bannister (Joy Franz) through conversations with her neighbor Grace Bodell (Joy Lynn Jacobs), former student and current policeman Eugene Claymire (Tito Livas) and dreamy handyman drifter Abel Brown (David Manis).

Eleanor feels adrift and unsatisfied in her life. She’s quick both to irritation and with a scathing quip. She keeps her feelings hidden underneath a mask of normalcy and reputation. In her heart, she feels she has wasted her time on this earth and fears the slow drift into nonexistence. When Abel Brown aimlessly stumbles into her life, she sees a chance for risk and spontaneity. Abel on the other hand sees a chance to finally commit to a stable and honest life.

Tricky Source Material, Solid Performances

The source material is inherently interesting and provides a wonderful late-in-life coming-of-age story. However, stories of this sort create a challenging beam for actors to balance on. A certain subtlety is required to bring a feeling of restrained growth to the surface. While Franz remains on the beam, she stumbles from time to time. There were some unfortunate missed cues and a few stale lines sprinkled throughout her performance. Yet I believe some of this stumbling could be attributed to opening night jitters as Franz continued to improve as the show went on.

This improvement was no doubt aided by very solid performances from Jacobs and Manis. Both of these actors have some magnificent moments that give a beating heart to the source material. I also wanted to give a special shoutout to Idaho native Livas for winning over the crowd in his short time on stage. Large sections of the audience were in stitches, and he enthusiastically met his marks and delivered his lines.

Comfortable and Approachable

While “Fireflies” is a slow, everyday and unremarkable tale, it highlights the spectacle that can be found in everyday life. Eleanor’s life teaches us that it is never too late to seize a day or value a friendship. Life becomes far more exciting when we become brave enough to make a mistake. As Eugene Claymire says in the show, “We aren’t supposed to get all the answers right.”

PTC‘s production of “Fireflies” provides a leisurely and cozy night of theatre. The play is approachable, light and at times very witty. It may not be the most incredible thing you’ll see in your life, but it is a high-quality production that will no doubt put a smile on your face. I recommend you grab someone you want to hold hands with and enjoy the show.


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