'Fireflies' At Long Wharf Theatre: Matthew Barber Looks At Lonely Hearts


Matthew Barber seems to be enchanted by yearning women of a certain age.

In his Tony Award-nominated play, Enchanted April, which was a book and a 1991 film prior to Barber’s stage adaptation, he followed a group of lonely British women as they found escape from their gray lives by joining forces and setting off for a vacation in Italy where they find their true liberated selves among the wisteria. It had its world premiere in 2000, directed by Michael Wilson.


Fireflies, his newest play, which is receiving its world premiere at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre through Sunday, Nov. 5, also is about reawakening the human heart.

Based on the novel Eleanor & Abel by Annette Sanford, the play centers on the character of Eleanor, a retired schoolteacher who lives in a small, sleepy Texas town. Her life changes when she encounters Abel Brown, a mysterious drifter and handyman.


“I read a description of the book and I liked it very much,” says Barber, who is now based in Brooklyn, New York after many years in Los Angeles where he worked on screenplays and book editing,

In the play, Tony Award-winning actress Jane Alexander plays Eleanor and Tony Award-nominated actor Denis Arndt plays Abel. Also in the cast are Judith Ivey (two Tonys for her; she also starred in Long Wharf’s The Glass Menagerie and Shirley Valentine) and Yale School off Drama grad Christopher Michael McFarland. Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein stages the play.

Matthew. Barber

Matthew. Barber

“What interests me in my writing are characters who have been put in a corner by society—or by themselves—and after time has passed, find themselves trapped. Where you started out to go isn’t always where you wind up going.