65

Fire and Air NYC Reviews and Tickets

65%
(158 Reviews)
Positive
45%
Mixed
44%
Negative
11%
Members say
Disappointing, Slow, Great acting, Ambitious, Indulgent

About the Show

Classic Stage Company's world premiere by Tony Award winner Terrence McNally explores the rich history of the Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev’s itinerant Russian ballet company.

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Member Reviews (158)

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67
Middling, Ambitious, Confusing, Poorly staged

See it if you want to know a tiny bit about these historical figures. Great performance by Hodge who is the show and has 85% of all lines.

Don't see it if You want to understand more about the characters. The staging is confusing and the narrative truncated​. Read more

64
Disappointing, Confusing, Great acting, Poor staging, Intelligent

See it if You like very wordy plays with minimal sets and few transitions between scenes to help you understand the plot development. Beautiful words.

Don't see it if You don’t want to work very hard to keep up with what’s going on, character motives and reasoning. With the minimal set it’s extra hard.

Critic Reviews (33)

February 1st, 2018

"Hodge blusters, whines, and suffers wonderfully, coloring in the character all the way to the outlines, and a little beyond...But if Diaghilev is dramatic, he doesn’t much lend himself to drama...Starved of dramatic propulsion, the play devolves into a symposium on aesthetics...There may yet be a moving work to be mined from McNally’s research and sympathy for Diaghilev. It would need more characters actually doing things...Aside from a few golden moments, 'Fire and Air' is inert."
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February 1st, 2018

"Under normal circumstances, McNally’s boneless assemblage of scenes would be merely dull, but we’ve all spent the last four months thinking about another bullying producer who demanded sexual thralldom from his stars. Harvey Weinstein’s stink makes McNally’s already disappointing drama seem even worse...Miscast and misguided by director Doyle, Hodge spends a lot of time sitting on a chair as the others look on. The play is airless and soporific: 'Afternoon of a Yawn.'"
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February 1st, 2018

"Why is McNally’s 'Fire and Air' such leaden drama?...The play almost never achieves the loft and ferocity implied by its titular elements...You can cast a beautiful, talented actor, but after two hours of hearing about his character’s genius without getting to witness a performance of it, that faith is going to wear thin...Not only does Doyle shy away from evoking the marvels inherent in the play’s material, he also fails to add drive and punctuation to McNally’s meandering text."
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February 1st, 2018

"You'll want to learn more about the legendary dance company Ballets Russes...Not because 'Fire and Air' is so good, but rather because the play is so lifeless that the real story must certainly be more interesting...There are plenty of problems besides the writing...Doyle's propensity for minimalism for its own sake has long since worn out its welcome...Judging by the lack of heat and airlessness in 'Fire and Air,' it's clear that more rehearsal, and several rewrites, were desperately needed."
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February 2nd, 2018

"Heartbreaking is an apt word for McNally's obvious love for these complicated characters whose ferocious self-regard is of a piece with their compulsion to produce art. It's what links the artist and the impresario. It's ultimately anti-romantic and perhaps lacking in conventionally dramatic narrative, because so much is hidden in the heart (not to mention the bedroom). Yet in McNally's compassionate vision and Doyle's exquisite evocation, it's terribly human."
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February 1st, 2018

"An intense and interesting drama on the subject, albeit underdeveloped and patchy...Doyle provides the kind of minimalist production that he has become his trademark, using an empty space that evokes a ballet studio. This serves the play well by keeping the focus on Hodge’s flamboyant and forceful performance as Diaghilev...Perhaps 'Fire and Air' ought to be further distilled into a two-man drama, just Diaghilev and Nijinsky, telling their stories and squaring off."
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February 1st, 2018

"Ambitious if disappointing new play...His free-flowing dramaturgy ignores the physics of time and space to stab at the heart of some hidden universal truth. Unfortunately, he often misses and pokes the gallbladder of reductive cliché...Doyle's unencumbered staging meshes nicely with McNally's style...McNally's propensity to recycle ideas highlights the unifying themes of his universe...It may not be transcendent, but it is unmistakably human."
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February 2nd, 2018

"McNally is in icon-painting mode, and 'Fire and Air' is a largely static affair...As played by Douglas Hodge, Diaghilev is a tangle of mannerisms, a series of grand gestures without an organizing principle...Doyle's direction gives these often-aimless proceedings the fluidity of a dream, and he has assembled a notably overqualified supporting cast...The playwright's famous wit seems to have gone on holiday, and he seems to be struggling to say something profound about the making of art."
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February 1st, 2018

"A turgid exercise in artistic hubris that boasts a talented cast vainly endeavoring to make a tedious play relevant when it needs to be sent back to the drawing board...It's a bullet-point list of perfunctory biographical moments, but McNally's script doesn't say anything meaningful in their recitation...The show's biggest liability in CSC's production is Douglas Hodge's unleashed performance...May be the most overwrought performance I've ever seen on a stage."
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February 4th, 2018

“If Hodge stands out as Diaghilev, Glover also offers a strong and solid Dmitry. But what's missing from the play is any depth to the characters which basically receive a superficial treatment. Missing too are fascinating details to be found in other sources, such as learning of Nijinsky's disgust every morning to awaken with the stains of Diaghilev's black hair-dye on the pillow.”
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February 1st, 2018

"Hodge’s passionate performance leaves an indelible impression of the Russian impresario...It’s a riveting story, and McNally tells it with purpose and economy...Doyle’s signature style of minimalism, fluidity, and precision serves McNally’s narrative beautifully...A production that tells the story of an extraordinary artist – brought to life by a team of collaborators worthy of his artistry."
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February 2nd, 2018

"The two gifted young dancers and lovers we meet in 'Fire and Air' never get to dance. Which given the rather labored pace, is sorely missed...What happens during the two hour running time is often confusing. Even a knowledgeable theatergoer is likely to miss the nuances of the interactions...While Mr. Doyle's design and direction are disappointing, bravos are due to his designers. And though 'Fire and Air' has some witty dialogue, it's lesser rather than better-than-ever McNally."
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February 2nd, 2018

"The building blocks, though individually brilliant, don't complement one another...The biggest clash comes between the writing and the direction. The play is paced like a racehorse...The audience isn't given room to breathe...All fire and no air...The cast is stacked only with the finest actors, but their compatibility with this work is at times questionable...That said, it bursts with potential worthy of its title, and just a glimpse of it at this current stage of its development can still be interesting."
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February 5th, 2018

"McNally writes reverently about the art form without showing much dancing at all on stage...The torment one can feel for unrequited love is universal and 'Fire and Air' mirrors it quite admirably. Particularly, Hodge’s remarkably anguished performance allows the audience to feel the weight of the emotions Diaghilev must have felt. You can almost perceive it in the off-stage ballet, in the dance of the mind."
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February 1st, 2018

"The plot, if there is one, is as thin as a dancer’s leotard...McNally’s script plays with a dreamy reality, but the production’s physical limitations often left me wondering what was happening and where. The talented ensemble relishes in his catchy turn of phrase, which avid theatergoers have appreciated for more than 50 years...When the play’s themes of love emerge, though, it’s impossible not to be moved."
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February 1st, 2018

"Who better to dramatize all this than the playwright who won one of his four Tony Awards for 'Master Class'...Yet, 'Fire and Air,' though finely acted and designed, is ultimately too diffuse, imprecise and precious to allow the audience to discover Diaghilev’s greatness; it offers us too little in the way of enlightenment...A few words about the two younger actors...While there is much that is undeniably appealing about their presence, there is just a touch of the ludicrous in it as well."
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February 2nd, 2018

"'Fire and Air' has cast some of the best actors in New York...We see little dancing and maybe that could have helped this play, that holds little interest except for the sex scenes and the all but nakedness of Nijinsky...Doyle’s concept is interesting with gold chairs and mirrors, but was this just so he could seduce the audience to view the sexual scenes like a voyeur?...I have a feeling Nijinksy would have been wearing a #MeToo pin."
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February 1st, 2018

"It is sad to think that this amorphous mess came from the pen of four-time Tony winner Terrence McNally. How the mighty have fallen! If there was any point to this Cliff Notes version of the career of ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, I failed to grasp it...The second act is excruciating with embarrassing surrealistic touches. It was a thoroughly dispiriting experience."
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February 1st, 2018

"Nijinsky and Diaghilev are so conscious of their every intention and motive that their on-stage action is smothered in talk and utterly lacks subtext. Hodge plays Diaghilev with great verve, but after a while the character’s verbal dissertations are enough to add the word 'psychiatrist' to this legend’s many credits...The real disappointment arrives in the playwright’s take on such historic figures...A talented cast brings more hot air than fire to this group of giants turned ciphers."
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February 2nd, 2018

"McNally ventures into challenging territory in 'Fire and Air'...The subject matter is interesting whether or not one is informed about this era of dance history, and Hodge portrays Diaghilev charismatically, but often over the top...It is a stretch to make everything seem very Russian or Chekhov-like...The overall result is a production that has its fascinating and informative moments, but also is ultimately overwrought and not very deep."
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February 1st, 2018

"The performance and Doyle's fast-paced staging aren't enough to pull together McNally's unfocused script and provide a clear, dynamic picture of a genius...There is so much material and potential themes to choose from...McNally includes too much...And short-changes them as a result...Even with this kitchen-sink approach, many fascinating and vital elements are left out or minimized...A potentially fascinating subject, but there's more air than fire here."
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February 3rd, 2018

"'Fire and Air' isn't a good show...Under the direction of the notorious minimalist John Doyle, the show has been trimmed to just six actors who trudge through Diaghilev's life on a nearly bare set...Bits and pieces of Diaghilev's biography are cited, but they pass by in a stream of scenes that are no more involving than reading an excerpt from Diaghilev's Wikipedia bio would be. There's no sense of why we should care about this man and no real conflict to pull us into his story."
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February 1st, 2018

"McNally’s play is stately and proudly wordy; more an animated meditation on desire, art, and power than a raw deconstruction of a once-fruitful, now-screwed-up relationship...The play is full of barbs, dark wisecracks, and spirited cris de coeur about love and art. It also assumes your knowledge of Diaghilev and Nijinsky is as wide and embracing as the playwright’s...But a play shouldn’t need a program...You may be left with more questions than answers."
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February 2nd, 2018

"Alternately frenzied and tedious...McNally's bustling historical drama, despite its title can often feel airless and gives off precious few sparks...McNally’s portrait of the artist as a boil-covered egoist may stay true to the facts and incidents of Diaghilev’s storied career, but this portrait’s overall aspect and purpose are difficult to decipher...Moments like the penultimate scene at the barre feel like fresh gusts of air, but they're too few and far between to catch your breath."
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February 2nd, 2018

"Doyle leaves the stage empty except for two mirrors and a few chairs. That minimalist approach may not capture the more colorful and eclectic aspects of Diaghilev's style, but it does evoke his ambition to wipe the slate clean and revolutionize the art form...Though well-acted, the supporting roles all seem incidental...Another problem is the absence of dance...'Fire and Air' thus feels less than fully satisfying."
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February 14th, 2018

"Needs less talk and more dance...Doyle deftly allows McNally's version of the Diaghilev story to come alive scene by scene...Unfortunately, there's a paucity of dancing in this production--and it keeps the piece from catching fire...If 'Fire and Air' comes up short as a drama, it is a heart-felt paean to Diagheliv and his Ballets Russes. It might not be one of McNally's best works, but it surely gives you a provocative portrait of the great Diagheliv."
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February 2nd, 2018

"It’s a distinguished company of major actors in comparatively minor roles...Doyle directs, and he mostly does an uncharacteristically straightforward job...McNally’s customary wit and consummate craftsmanship are on ample display. But 'Fire and Air', when not philosophizing about the creation of art, name-dropping, or serving up juicy backstage intrigue, seems to exist mainly to let its Diaghilev take center stage and dazzle us. Fortunately, Douglas Hodge is well up to that."
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February 1st, 2018

"A docudrama with an impressive cast...As the play frequently switches locale, lighting changes and sounds effects aren't enough to make it clear where we are at any given moment, creating an overall sense of confusion. Still, the play offers wonderful performances and an interesting peek into a little-known world. And for people who take their ballet seriously, this piece is a must, with its realistic exploration of a man who had so much influence on the arts of the 20th century."
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February 5th, 2018

"The flames of artistic passion only flicker intermittently in McNally’s new, surprisingly inert and dreary depiction of the muse that Nijinsky provided for Diaghilev...It’s a static piece: all tell and no show...There’s little of interest in McNally’s play and such fine actors as Glover, Mazzie, and Mason are wasted in underwritten roles...Two giant mirrors dominate director Doyle’s set design, but the play feels like it is constantly looking at its own reflection without showing anything illuminating."
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February 1st, 2018

"McNally's new play gives a hasty and superficial guided tour of this rich but heavily worked-over material...McNally manages to sandwich in a good bit of artistic discussion...It barely registers, however, because Doyle and actor Douglas Hodge have built a Diaghilev who is almost maniacally unappealing and unmagical...The rest of the cast largely does better...All do as well as they can with material that mainly seems predictable."
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Z
February 2nd, 2018

“The problem in Hodge’s performance is that the energy and bluster starts at high volume from the moment we meet the man, and then stays there…He is a legend in his own mind, and he gets to be a tiring one…There are wonderful performances here from noted performers. But the story itself starts at A and ends at Z without much traction in between. Diaghilev rails and rants, Nikinsky stretches and preens, and we try, mostly unsuccessfully, to care.”
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February 8th, 2018

"McNally, who has done his research, combines factual detail with imaginative flights of fancy. But 'Fire and Air' ends up an unsatisfying jumble of biography and fictional re-imaging...Cusati-Moyer and Johnson are lithe and athletic, their toned bodies speaking more eloquently than their acting...Hodge gives a broad but good-humored portrayal...Hodge does make Diaghilev relatable as more than a self-pitying genius, which gives 'Fire and Air' its intermittent vigor."
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February 25th, 2018

"The whole is not greater than the sum of the parts. And what should have been a compelling evening of theatre rarely engages the attention of its audience...The production moves quickly through the years with little context or sense of how the cataclysmic events of the time are impacting the art. The intended portrait of Diaghilev as visionary and genius fails to connect. We are told that he is brilliant, but we are never shown that he is...The cast is game, but they are given little to do."
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