Nancy Johnston and Lynne Winsterstellar
in Revisiting Wildfire
(© Carol Rosegg)
Nancy Johnston and Lynne Winsterstellar
in Revisiting Wildfire
(© Carol Rosegg)
Kari Floren's Revisiting Wildfire, a midlife female-buddy dramedy, now at the at ArcLight Theatre under Eve Brandstein's generally competent direction, starts off at a fine white heat -- but ends with an ember's faint, albeit comforting glow.

Certainly no fault lies with Lynne Winterstellar and Nancy Johnston, deftly playing Theresa and Pam, 50-something former roommates who've managed to sustain a friendship over three decades despite differing life choices. The play reads like a modern, more sisterly variation on Old Acquaintance, but without the bracing IV drip of venomous rivalry.

Theresa, the city mouse, has dedicated herself to her career and, until quite recently, shone as the high-powered director of a charitable foundation. After their punkish days at NYU (cue allusions to Lou Reed, the Ramones, and the Pyramid Club), Pam chose the mommy track -- in Cleveland no less. The promise of regular visits to Theresa's welcoming West Village apartment (compactly conveyed by set designer Jason Sherwood) was apparently all that kept Pam from bugging out in the suburbs -- at least till now.

This time Theresa, newly fired and deeply depressed, does her utmost to push Pam away -- quite literally, nearly causing bodily harm. A true, if borderline obnoxious friend, Pam persists in the face of extreme hostility and eventually succeeds in getting Theresa to drop her defenses enough to vent about her humiliating ouster.

Theresa is pretty clearly "off the rails," as Pam points out: she has oddly fixated on the 1970s ballad that lends the play its title. Just how deeply the lyrics, and their morbid message of self-sacrifice, have affected Theresa is a topic that the women's increasingly cordial interactions will tease out -- giving Pam leave to drop a shocker of her own.

As the mood grows ever more chummy and supportive, however, excitement and interest fizzle. Drama needs conflict the way fire needs oxygen; and Theresa and Pam remain mere constructs instead of full-bodied characters.