The great baseball sage Yogi Berra famously said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” and, as usual, his wise words apply to life as well as to our national pastime. Baseball, which figures prominently in
House on Fire
, Lyle Kessler’s world premiere play, is often seen as a metaphor for life. The very best hitters are successful only a third of the time, which means that they, like most of us, experience more disappointment than success and have to put it behind them and move on.
In baseball as in life, there’s no clock, which is why there’s always hope until the last out is made. A team can fall behind early in the game, a person can fall upon hard times in life, but with determination, perseverance and, yes, sometimes a little bit of luck – even magic – fortunes can change. Because it ain’t over ’til it’s over.
House on Fire
is about five people who have made bad choices, who have struck out time and again but have a chance to change the trajectory of their lives. They live on the edge of society, are eccentric and uneducated, and have issues with abandonment. They cover their wounds and vulnerability with a tough veneer, and cope by lying and creating illusions.
Lyle uses magic realism to tell the story; that is, he heightens reality with mystical moments. I think he truly believes there are miracles to be found in the world.
What gives the play its power is the family dynamic, the relationship between brothers Colman and Dale, and their relationships with their father, known as the Old Man. Despite the anger and mean-spiritedness that repeatedly surface, their love for each other is never in doubt. Both Dale and Colman seek validation from the Old Man, and I suspect that it is the inherent need (often unfulfilled) we all have for our families to grace us with unconditional love, acceptance, and support that will resonate deeply with audiences.
In baseball, the aim of each hitter is to get on base and find his way home. In
House in Fire
as in life, for better or worse, there’s no place like home.