Theatre 120 Review Guide
Fires In The Mirror
by Anna Deavere Smith
Takes place in a racially divided neighborhood, Crown Heights. A car
driven by a Jewish man veered onto a sidewalk and killed a Caribbean-
American boy, Gavin Cato. Protests broke out and a Jewish Australian,
Yankel Rosenbaum, was stabbed by a group of blacks and killed. Smith
interviews 26 people about the incident, which makes up the monologues
of the play.
Monologues are not in chronological order. The play is set up so that it
starts with explanations of each culture and characters’ identity. It then
goes into different perspectives on the incident. The play ends with
monologues of three important viewpoints from Roslyn Malamud, Reuven
Ostrov and Carmel Cato. This structure shows the tension building
between two very separate groups. Monologues switch off between blacks
and Jews, accents and tone of voices shift.
This is not a typical Aristotle plot: there is no beginning, middle or end.
The sequence of events are interchangeable. According to Aristotle, this is
a simple plot, specifically “episodic”, in which there is no probability or
necessity for the order in which the episodes follow one another.
The incident takes place in 1991 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a very
divided neighborhood. Each interview takes place somewhere different,
depending the character’s lifestyle, job, etc.
Language, Sounds, Rhythm
This play is written in prose, naturally flowing of speech because each
monologue was originally a spoken interview. The language used was
stereotypical of each culture. Smith used different accents and tones to
portray different characters.
Sound effects such as crying babies and sugar packets were
Smith is acting as all characters in the play. She does not use white and
black face makeup to differentiate between the characters. Instead, she
uses dialect, mannerisms, tone of voice, accent, costume.
For example, the reverend is in a nice office, a graffiti filled basement, Al
Sharpton is in front of many mirrors, the Labuvitcher woman was folding
This play is written by Anna Deavere Smith, premiered on PBS in 1993.
Smith believed: “Character lives in language. If you say a word enough, it
She believed you become a character through impersonation (mimicry and