'A Phoenix Too Frequent' Director's Note

Posted August 25, 2021

Phx Notes Web

Director Keira Fromm on Christopher Fry's witty and affecting meet-cute.

At one point during previews while I was directing A Doll’s House here in 2019, Brenda reached out and asked me to read a play that APT had become enamored with. She prefaced my reading of the play by saying, “now, I want to warn you, this play is not A Doll’s House. It’s not going to change your life the way that A Doll’s House changes people’s lives, but it is so funny and so smart and it’s great for our company and our audiences.” That play was A Phoenix Too Frequent. I read the play, and what started off as simple recognition of Christopher Fry’s clever wordplay and wicked sense of humor led to true appreciation of the characters he’d created, and a genuine desire to root for them and see them triumph in the end. Ibsen is all well and good, but what I want to do more than anything these days is laugh, and Fry delivers.

When people ask me to describe A Phoenix Too Frequent, I usually lead by explaining that the play is essentially a meet-cute in a mausoleum. Christopher Fry’s cheeky sense of humor and playfulness inspires that summary. The play is a poetic, quirky, sometimes bawdy romantic comedy about a young widow (Dynamene) and her maidservant (Doto) who meet a dashing young soldier (Tegeus) in the most unexpected of places and the ways in which the encounter changes their lives. Even though the play’s North Star is its sense of humor, in true Christopher Fry fashion, it also contains a treasure trove of glorious poetic language, and a surprisingly moving story about three young people attempting to meet the high expectations of society.

This play is one part satire, one part love story, with a dash of politics thrown in for good measure. In Dynamene and Tegeus you will see a little bit of Romeo and Juliet; in Doto you will see shades of both the Nurse from Romeo and Juliet, as well as Audrey from As You Like It. In these three characters, Fry has given us a trio of very intelligent, curious and stupidly funny humans to track on their journey. It’s a boy-wants-girl, girl-rejects-boy- then-changes-her-mind-and-falls-madly-in-love-with-boy story. Truly the summer rom-com we all want to see.

– Keira Fromm