New York City Theater
"Ring of Fire"
“Ring of Fire” weaves 38 Cash songs into a tapestry of rural-to-urban life. Not a biography, not a jukebox show with a bunch of tunes thrown together willy-nilly, it is, rather, an attempt to get at the heart of Cash’s poetry. At times, the idea soars and emotions are touched.
Young, middle-aged and older couples impressionistically trace the youth, then the maturity of Cash’s works. Backed by a cadre of superb musicians who also pass in and out of scenes, songs written by and associated with Cash become vignettes. Rain accompanies “Five Feet High and Rising”; a backdrop of crops illustrates “Look at Them Beans”; men on a chain gang and women pining for their mates act out songs about prisons, including “Folsom Prison Blues.”
The title song jams with life, while “Man in Black” is wonderfully moody and “Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart” is a hoot. The jolly round, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” gets Act Two off in high style.
Missing here is an overall thread to pull us through, although “Fire” is expertly directed by Richard Maltby, Jr., who gave us the much more focused “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” By contrast with that Tony-winning revue, we get the flavor, but not an understanding of the country sound nor do we get to know the performers, talented as they all are.
-- David Rosenberg
Feb. 22, 2006