Walk'n Through The Fire

Review by Willard Manus

John DiFusco's new play WALK'N THROUGH THE FIRE deals, both literally and figuratively, with life and death. DiFusco, whose illustrious local theatrical career dates back to 1980, when he premiered his Viet Nam war drama Tracers at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, goes deep into autobiography in FIRE, which premiered recently at the Hayworth Theatre.

Fashioned out of journals and memories, FIRE is a powerful, poetic, fiercely honest self-portrait, one that first was conceived as a solo piece but slowly evolved, via the workshop process, into a five-character chamber work. DiFusco, joined in multiple roles by Richard Azurdia, Michael T. Kachingwe, Kwana Martinez and Eileen O'Connell, looks back on the important things that have happened to him over the past sixty years: being born into a large New England working-class family, joining the Air Force and serving in Viet Nam, struggling to make it as an actor, achieving fame with Tracers, marrying and becoming a father.
Through it all, the moody, introspective, ever-restless DiFusco wrestled with the big issues of existence: the split between the spiritual and the physical, the horrors of war, the random, chaotic nature of the universe (as evidenced by the early death of five of his nine siblings). Always seeking answers to these questions--and relief from his tormenting dreams and demons--DiFusco explored drugs, booze, Buddhism, Jung and Native American remedies (a sweat-lodge session explains the play's title).

Essentially, FIRE dramatizes DiFusco's quest for meaning, for solace. With the help of his able cast and Che'Rae Adams & Janet Roston's direction (the latter choreographed as well), FIRE'S personal concerns make for surprisingly good theatre as well, if only because DiFusco writes with skill and humor in bringing to life such characters as Big Edgar (a black buddy in Nam), Lupe (the barrio girl he married) and Longwalker (his sweat-lodge shaman).

Music plays a large part in the production, especially period rock songs, Buddhist drums and cymbals. Sara Ryung Clement's set and J. Kent Inasy's lighting design also help immeasurably. All in all, WALK'N THRU THE FIRE is every bit as remarkable and ground-breaking as Tracers was. (Hayworth Theatre, 2509 Wilshire Blvd. Call 800-836-3006 or visit brownpapertickets.com)