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From 21 critic and 165 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Ambitious

About the show

In this world premiere from Atlantic Theater Company, somewhere in the Jim Crow South, the sky is on fire. "Fireflies" is the second part of Donja R. Love's trilogy that began with "Sugar in Our Wounds." More…

A pregnant Olivia’s fierce speech writing is the sole force behind her charismatic husband Charles and his successful Movement to galvanize people to march towards freedom. When four little girls are bombed in a church, Olivia and Charles’ marriage is threatened – as this tragedy and years of civil unrest leave Olivia believing that “this world ain’t no place to raise a colored child.”


“Jaw-dropping and explosively dramatic...The second part of a trilogy...’Fireflies’ stands up on its own as a powerful tale of love flashing its light in the dark... All cuddles and kisses, Wise and Davis convincingly play a young couple...Director Saheem Ali artfully unveils the dynamics of this relationship...A drama of extraordinary depth and complexity...Love thrillingly crafts an intimate story that comes to feel cosmic in its enormity by the end. I can't wait to see the third installment.” Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Wise and Davis are electrifying in their roles. Under Ali’s poignant and surgically precise direction, Ms. Wise and Mr. Davis explore every nerve, every synapse, every heretofore unexplored thought, every previously unanticipated action of their complex characters...This is a tale that needs to be heard, needs to be reiterated, and needs to find as many other iterations as possible." Full Review


"’Fireflies’ depicts with great verisimilitude the angst and pain incurred by leaders in the civil rights movement for their commitment to social progress...Under Ali's sensitive direction, Wise and Davis are compelling as characters who are conflicted, flawed and believable. Wise, superb throughout, makes Olivia's final monologue — a tour de force of dramatic writing — a theatrical moment likely to stay with audiences indefinitely. Davis is equally forceful here." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“The second offering in 'The Love Plays'...‘Fireflies’ is a powerful exploration of a marriage filled with secrets...It packs a wallop in its oblique allusions to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and boasts two superb performances...Love's skillful script uncovers secrets the way a great chef peels an onion, and Ali directs with subtlety and understatement...The two plays come thrillingly together. It will be exciting to see Love's conclusion to the trilogy." Full Review

Front Row Center

“Khris Davis and DeWanda Wise give impassioned and emotional performances, with many beautiful moments between them staged by director Saheem Ali, including one particularly entrancing dance sequence with choreography by Raja Feather Kelly, and the themes Donja R. Love is exploring within the play sadly feel as relevant to 2018 as they were in 1960s America.” Full Review


"Donja R. Love's overstuffed play is compelling at the same time that it attempts to cover too many topics. However, under Saheem Ali's assured and tight direction, Khris Davis and DeWanda Wise give dynamic, mesmerizing performances which command attention for the play's entire length, not an easy feat in a two-character play. And 'Fireflies' will make you want to see the third and last play in the trilogy, 'In the Middle', which is set in more recent times." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“Lovely and lyrical...Love’s ‘Fireflies' is disarmingly powerful...Wise is wonderful as Olivia. She maneuvers through the play’s twists and turns with understated grace, going with the flow...As Charles, Davis provides an excellent foil...Ali’s direction is concise and exact...’Fireflies’ is more haunting than exciting. It’s the kind of play that stays with you after the curtain goes down, even though you may not realize it." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“Directed with an emotional preciseness, Ali teases out the layers with a delicate thoughtfulness as the winds swirl around the two spectacular leads wrestling the demons of revolution and frustration of inequality...Surprising and intensely satisfying...The writing is intricate, layered, subtle, detailed...This spectacularly deep piece of writing feels as connected to the heaviness of the world as one could hope for.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

"In light of the explosive material with which he concerns himself, I’m inclined to wave away a reviewer’s standard concerns. His dire authorial concerns are that pressing...I take the position that if Love is overdoing it, it’s because he wants to be certain that no one is tempted to dismiss his conviction that the wages of racism remain too high to be paid by contemporary society...Directed fiercely by Saheem Ali and played with mounting ferocity by Davis and Wise." Full Review

Broad Street Review

"Few mainstream plays have centered the experience of a black queer woman, much less one depicted with such clarity.​..Ali’s direction can sometimes seem needlessly arch, particularly for a play that deals so heavily in symbolism and lyrical, rhythmic language...The pacing sometimes slackens as the play moves toward its affecting denouement. But nothing can dim Love’s singular voice. I hope to see work from this talented native son on local stages in the near future." Full Review

New York Theater

“For all the pile-up of sorrows for the characters, audiences themselves can find some joy in the production of 'Fireflies'...thanks to the lyrical design and especially to the splendid performances...The abrupt climax offers what feels like one tragedy too many, and too quickly, without preparing the audience, or allowing us to share in the reaction...Still, the two performers manage to grab our attention, and keep our sympathy.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“A lot to pack into a ninety-minute two-hander, and I'd be lying if I said that Love has managed the task elegantly and seamlessly; he seems to be aiming for a hybrid of magical realism and kitchen sink domestic drama, a match that doesn't totally take...But Love is a talent...who knows how to create bristling, wounding confrontations...Love wins for originality, too: He composes a dark but compelling countermelody to the standard anthemic account of the Civil Rights movement." Full Review

The New York Times

"I was moved by Mr. Love’s willingness to imagine, amid the terror of the times...other kinds of lives than the ones that history books offer. And as embodied by the fine performers here, those lives really do seem alive...But every time the play began to engage me through character it disengaged me through plot contrivance...What the actors can overcome, the story often cannot...The language, too, can seem awfully rich, perhaps deliberately in a play about oratory and faith." Full Review

Stage Left

“Love’s work seeks to fill in an otherwise erased history, giving unheralded people of color the dignity of their stories...Wise offers a staggering performance, ferocious and captivating...The language is sweeping and lyrical, but the plot is too thick with action and issues for two characters to explore in 90 minutes...This results in several wild dramatic swings and a bluntly gratuitous closing monologue that explains the central metaphor of the play’s title...Nevertheless painful and sad.” Full Review

Exeunt Magazine

“Lewis and Wise burn brightly, matching well in their depictions of two vibrant, intensely physical people who do feel genuinely for each other but are also unable to be fully honest...In its portrayal of the larger world in which Charles and Olivia exist... ‘Fireflies’ feels rote and unevolved, lacking all the nuance of the relationship between them...It’s a credit to Love, Ali, and Wise’s rich performance that ‘Fireflies’ never loses sight of her journey and struggle." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Its language and design create a fearful panorama...'Fireflies' aims for an emotional forte early on and doesn’t often vary its pitch...It’s like a very rich meal, eventually dulling the very senses it seeks to sharpen and satisfy...Part of me wanted to see the play that comes after 'Fireflies,'...That’s a play I haven’t seen. Despite the fine performances that drive 'Fireflies' forward, its tone and trajectory ultimately left me feeling like it was one that I had." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"An overwrought domestic drama…The characters leap from emotional highs to emotional lows, arguing fiercely one minute, dancing erotically the next...Too often, the scenes seem more about themselves than their connection to what comes before and after. Similarly, Love's mingling of lyrical and naturalistic language occasionally misfires, with some speeches too enthralled with evangelical purple platitudes. Most disturbing is the clumsy exposition." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"A two-character emotional roller-coaster set in an unsettling era of political unrest...Although rigorously directed by Saheem Ali, there are a few too many plot twists to make it credible or resonate more broadly. To add to this, the artificially neat, bright kitchen and hyper-dramatized flashes of explosive projections don’t add nuance to the story...Love builds our intrigue to know more about that development, but then immediately drops the topic for the next sensational reveal." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"One seriously overstuffed 90-minute drama...The work barely has room to breathe, with the playwright delivering an emotional whiplash-inducing series of plot revelations and reversals that stretch credibility to the breaking point...It's no fault of the actors, who deliver persuasive performances that are all the more impressive under the circumstances...While there's no denying its noble intentions and theatrical and thematic ambition, 'Fireflies' fails to take flight." Full Review


"This is a compelling premise for a play, but it's buried under a mountain of melodrama...'Fireflies,' the second in a three-part look at black, gay relationships in history, also clumsily wrestles with domestic abuse, homophobia, misogyny, abortion, alcoholism and infidelity...Very quickly, it devolves into a soap opera. Yet both Wise and Davis give grounded, heartbreaking performances. I can't wait to see them together, but in another production." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Love may have a lot to say about black queer resilience and God’s bounty, but he hasn’t worked out how to gracefully deliver information...Both characters are stuffed with qualities that only emerge when they’re mentioned...It’s not the actors’ fault that they’re unable to make coherent characters out of this chaos of impulses and characteristics; it’s impressive, therefore, whenever they make an isolated speech ring with confidence. This happens in fits and starts." Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting

See it if This was an excellent play. Thought provoking, as relevant today as 1963 the plight of an African American couple dealing with racism.

Don't see it if You dont like southern accents, thinking about racism or the concept of homosexuality.

Absorbing, Enchanting, Edgy

See it if The play was absolutely absorbing.Itmay we think

Don't see it if Don’t go if you do not like two character plays

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Resonant

See it if You appreciate thought provoking relationship plays.

Don't see it if Intense drama is not for you or if you do not care about people of color in a different/difficult time period.

Great acting, Great writing, Profound

See it if Historical context but delves into unexpected themes

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with controversial topics

Profoundly moving, Honest, Brilliantly acted

See it if you want to be reminded that a moving theatrical experience is still possible. Mix passion, creativity and vision and stir gently.

Don't see it if you can't bear to note how little has changed in 55 years in the relations between men and women and between minorities and majorities.

Two golden performances by dewanda wise and khris davis, A stunning blend of kitchen-sink drama and magical realism, Absorbing, Resonant, Relevant

See it if you are interested in young playwrights, Donja R. Love is a writer to keep your eye on. This is a stunning production!

Don't see it if you don't like historical-based plays mixed with magical realism. If you don't want to be intellectually stimulated.

Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you want to see great acting, direction and design. See if you want to be moved.

Don't see it if you are looking for something light.

Enchanting, Great acting, Profound, Intense, Resonant

See it if You enjoy both queer stories and stories about the civil rights movements.

Don't see it if You’re homophobic or racist.

Also The whole metaphor of “the skies are on fire” really hit home for me. ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful

See it if A TOUR DE FORCE.This play makes theater what it is .Compelling story line as well as acting.The audience was totally quiet.Everyone to whom

Don't see it if If you don't want to know about some of the civil rights struggles and a couple dealing with really intricate problems.

Also i spoke said the same thing.True drama at its best.Would recommend all... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Riveting, Delightful

See it if You would like to see a well acted play, that explores the trials and tribulations of Black Americans.

Don't see it if You can’t handle or relate to the reality of how blacks were treated in the 50’s 60’s and still being treated in today’s society.

Profound, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Masterful, Must see

See it if You are interested in work that explores Black/queer themes set in the Civil Rights era & enjoy the works of Alice Walker and August Wilson.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy plays that explore heavy themes, or that have complicated endings.

Powerful & accomplished play featuring a career defining performance ...

See it if you don't want to miss Dewanda Wise's masterful & riveting performance. You can not take your eyes off of her. Topnotch production ...

Don't see it if you would be irked by a production that begins slowly but quickly becomes profound & emotionally devastating or if you follow NYT's advice.

Exquisite, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You can empathize and understand what is going through the mind of a preacher’s wife in the dangerous Jim Crow South.

Don't see it if You have little interest in this nation’s African American history.

Also Shattering. Wondrously theatrical and luminously acted. An all too tim... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Exquisite, Great acting, Riveting, Resonant

See it if unbelievably intense social issue oriented gripping emotional cathartic drama. heart-wrenching performance by the main actress

Don't see it if you don't want to succumb to overwhelming emotion or have no ability to concentrate

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Intelligent, Resonant

See it if Powerful acting, American history, civil rights movement, being black in America, queerness, love, God and faith, honesty and deceit, hope.

Don't see it if You have no empathy for the lived experiences of black people in America.

Also The actors, particularly DeWanda Wise, are just outstanding. This is t... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You are interested in the Civil Rights Movement and want to see excellent acting.

Don't see it if You want perfection in every human being...

Great acting, Intelligent, Riveting, Relevant, Masterful

See it if you love great acting. DeWanda Wise is giving one of the performances of the season and will tear your heart out. I wept.

Don't see it if You don't like poetic lyricism in your drama. The writing here is rich, and not everyone will respond.

Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Great writing, Intelligent

See it if Moving experience about African-American life in 1963. Interesting twist in the plot

Don't see it if If you have an issue with gay topics.

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Profound, Thought-provoking

See it if you are interested in the life and thoughts of a preacher's wife in the Jim Crow South. Unfortunately, the play seems still relevant today!

Don't see it if you don't like plays about conflicts (inter-personal, inter-racial etc.) and like to be purely entertained.

Absorbing, Great acting, Profound, Great writing

See it if You are interested in African American history during the early 1960s and appreciate great acting and a well written play.

Don't see it if I am unable to think of a reason not to see this play, unless you expect a large cast

Great acting, Great writing, Absorbing, Relevant

See it if you like serious acting chops and consequential drama. These two tear it up and the playwright's pen had to have caught fire!

Don't see it if you're looking to be 'entertained'.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Resonant, Must see

See it if You love great drama and acting. Relevant especially today October 27!!!

Don't see it if You have no empathy and aren’t really interested in great theatre.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if If you want good acting and well written. Although takes place in 1963, the negro experience is still relevant today.

Don't see it if If interested in pure entertainment, do not see this. Too thought provoking.

Grippingly and emotionally resonant, Thoughtful, A satisfying blend of humor, seriousness, magical realism, and history, Intelligent writing, Helmed by a talented acting duo

See it if a fan of playwright Donja R. Love or actors Dewanda Wise & Khris Davis, who are perfectly electric; you crave intelligent historical dramas.

Don't see it if frank talk about love, abortion, extramarital affairs, bombings, and black experience in the 1960s American South aren’t your type of play.

Also A sadly-familiar portrait of a world on fire, chillingly, Fireflies st... Read more Read less

Great staging, Resonant, Great acting, Profound, Absorbing

See it if If you like a historical backdrop, are interested in a human experience & want to see a story which shows the complicated facets of love!

Don't see it if If you are not interested in a story within a story, within a story (a history lesson and a love story).

Cast & Creatives (10)