RAY BRADBURY’S PILLAR OF FIRE at Theatre Of NOTE
Hollywood Fringe Platinum Award Winner
“Oberst does not perform the role of Lantry, he exists in it.”
Pillar Of Fire is unlike anything else Ray Bradbury ever wrote. A conflux of the elements inherent to his style; the fusion of rational with irrational, the lover of literature, the modernist secure in science, the poet, the primitive, the brute; it has none of the amalgamation of these elements that would later appear, as Bradbury had yet to harmonize the distinct voices he bore within himself. In “Pillar Of Fire” the voices each perform in severance, with a purity of pitch that would later be muted in the cohesion of his creative choir. Unlike Bradbury’s later works, Pillar Of Fire is more rage than reflection, more poem than prose, and more horror story than speculative fiction.
Bill Oberst Jr. has chosen his role well. His lean hard body and gaunt face have a cadaverous quality. With nothing onstage other than dirt, he does more than become the role. As the resurrected corpse discovers the world anew, Oberst creates it, becoming the reality of Bradbury’s dystopia for his audience. Oberst does not perform the role of Lantry, he exists in it.
Pillar of Fire is truly remarkable work; one of the very best, if not the best solo show the 2015 Hollywood Fringe had to offer. Winner: Platinum Medal. Winner: Encore Producers’ Award. – Ernest Kearney, June 2015
Los Angeles Stage Review: RAY BRADBURY’S PILLAR OF FIRE
“Oberst’s storytelling is so mouth-watering, it will send psychological chills up your spine without a hint of gore. Superior performance. Do not miss” – Tracey Paleo
Duality is never more potent than in this riveting piece, written by Ray Bradbury as a response to Americans’ burning of comic books to “save” young minds and interpreted for stage by cult actor Bill Oberst Jr. at Hollywood’s Hudson Theatre.
In 2349 Earth has been cleansed of morbidity and corpses. When the government decides to destroy a remaining ancient graveyard, 400 years-dead William Lantry wakes up. Pillar of Fire holds one of the more chilling futuristic outcomes for the human race; an idealistic singularity where all sense of individuality, passion and imagination has been wiped out, replaced by a deathly glug of life without desire. We realize along with Lantry that human beings must live in duality, for existing in a world where there is only light is just as terrifying as one submerged in utter darkness.
Pillar Of Fire is straight up, deftly performed and extraordinary in every detail. Oberst’s storytelling is so mouth-watering, it will send psychological chills up your spine, without a hint of gore. A superior performance bar none. Highly recommended. – Tracey Paleo, June 2015
Ray Bradbury’s ‘Pillar of Fire’ read with permission and performed by Bill Oberst Jr.
“He came out of the earth, hating. Hate was his father; hate was his mother.”
You walk into the theater. The stage is bare; no scenery, no art, no props. As you adjust yourself to the surroundings, you then notice a …thing… in the middle of the bare stage. It doesn’t move, not even an inch. After a very long time, you start to notice movement.
From a seemingly crumpled heap of rags, a man emerges, or what you think is a man. It is contorted, as if in anguish, rising, slowly, painfully, untangling the wreck of his arms and legs, growling unintelligibly at first, then finally forming words. Words of pain, words of anger, words of hate.
His name is William Lantry, the year is 2349, and he has risen from the grave, 400 years dead. An alien world greets him, devoid of fear, of imagination; people no longer fear the dark.
And William Lantry hates that.
“Pillar of Fire,” a short story recitative by the late legendary writer Ray Bradbury, is a tale of a man out of his time. Lon Chaney Award and Emmy® winner Bill Oberst, Jr. is William Lantry, the sole player in this recitative. No stranger to the solo performance (“JFK,” “Jesus of Nazareth,” “A Tribute to Lewis Grizzard”), Oberst commands the stage. In his film career, many have commented that when Bill enters the scene, everyone else in the film virtually disappears; it becomes “The Bill Oberst Jr. Show.”
Now, here, physically alone, on a bare stage, Oberst grabs your attention, figuratively grabbing the audience by the throat and staring you down. Of all the aspects of this recitative (though, in truth, calling his performance a recitative is like calling “Odette’s Dance” from “Swan Lake” a walk through a grocery store) is Oberst’s total concentration on the character.
The stage is no larger than a studio apartment; only a footstep separates, Bill from the audience. Yet, his performance never breaks the “fourth wall,” even when some clown in the front row is texting right in front of him. And though that “fourth wall’ is firmly in place, he drags the audience into his pathetic, wretched world.
His performance is indeed magical; part storyteller, part zombie, part dancer, part magician, part comic, Oberst moves around that tiny stage, pulling the few props he uses during the performance virtually out of thin air, changing costumes without your noticing it, and never, not even once, leaving the audience’s line of vision. The short (50 minutes) performance flies by at a dizzying pace.
Credit also must be given to the show’s technical director, Mark McClain Wilson, who complements Oberst’s performance, with his subtle lighting moods through the performance, and also the disembodied voices that act as a second player to Oberst’s soliloquy, as he performs the dual role of narrator and actor.
Those who only knew Oberst as the unofficial “King of Indie Cinema Horror,” are depriving themselves of a large facet of Oberst’s repertoire, if any one of these live performances, in particular, “Pillar of Fire,” is not part of your Bill Oberst Jr. experience.
There are only three performances left at the Hudson Theatres (Hudson Guild) 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, California, June 11th, and the following two Thursdays. Live horror, Bill Oberst-style, is an experience not to be missed!
“Pillar of Fire” is read with the permission of Don Congdon Associates, Inc. on behalf of Ray Bradbury Enterprises, Inc. Copyright 1948 Love Romances, Inc. – Michael J.W. Thomas