“Big Red Sun” in Philidelphia

By Jill Charlton FeighanYes, I actually went out on a school night. I wanted to see the “Big Red Sun” make its world premiere with the 11th Hour Theatre Company right here in Philadelphia. Fellow Fire Islander John Jiler, a multi-generation resident of Seaview, wrote the book and lyrics. Some of you will remember him for his 1993 novel set on Fire Island “Dark Wind,” but Jiler is an accomplished author of several books, plays, and musicals with an impressive body of work to his credit. Georgia Stitt composed the play’s music.“Big Red Sun” is a musical story about a teenager trying to discover who he is, and in his journey he makes a huge discovery. His mother had always told him that his father had been killed in World War II, but when Harry looks further and relentlessly questions a family friend, he finds out that his father is not dead at all. He not only learns that his father is not dead, but he also learns about the atrocities of the War and the impact it had on people like his father.The story is told more through song than narrative, which makes perfect sense because each of the main characters in “Big Red Sun” is a musician; music is what actually ties all of the characters together in the story. There is a strong and confident cast of six, and an equally important band of five. The jazz, klezmer, cabaret, and rock music of the keyboard, bass, guitar, woodwinds, and percussion is just as important to the telling of Jiler’s story as is the cast – the band and cast could not exist without the other in “Big Red Sun.” The two are intricately intertwined, which is one of the things I found to be so special about the play.The show on this evening was sold out and the energy in the intimate Theatre was palpable. At times I felt like I was tapping my foot almost right on the stage and at times dancing along with the characters! “Big Red Sun” is an important story for all generations to know. I give it five stars and recommend that when “Big Red Sun” comes to your area, you go see it – even if it is on school night!One additional item: While in the lobby during intermission, a man turned to me and exclaimed, “This is extraordinary, isn’t it?” This comment made me smile and realize that I was certainly not alone in my thoughts about “Big Red Sun.”Editors Note: “Big Red Sun” closed on June 17, 2018 after a successful run. Books Jiler authored, including “Dark Wind,” “Wild Berry Moon,” and “Sleeping with the Mayor,” are available in new, used, or Kindle editions through Amazon.com – as is the musical CD for his production of “Avenue X.”