By Lanford Wilson
Directed by Linda Gillum
Produced by Shattered Globe Theatre
At Theater Wit, Chicago
Convoluted storyline muddles dated drama
Lanford Wilson’s confounding 1986 drama, Burn This, is a dated presentation about the effects of the death of a young gay dancer upon four violently opposing characters scrambling to to regain control over their lives. Dancer/choreographer Anna (Kate LoConti) who lives with two gay roommates can’t get over the sudden death of Robbie- her dancing collaborator and roommate. Larry, (Jake Szczepaniak), an advertising executive is the other gay roommate also struggling with the death. Add Burton (Brad Woodard), Anna’s bisexual lover and famous rich Hollywood screenwriter and you have a mix of characters deeply effected by the untimely death of a friend. Anna describes the torturous wake and funeral with Robbie’s family.
A month later, late one night, a sudden visitor barges into Anna’s Manhattan loft ( terrific set design by Andrew Hildner). He is an obnoxious, coke-snorting drunk. Pale (Ryan Kitley) is Robbie’s older brother come to Anna’s to fetch Robbie’s personal belongings. Pale’s wild entrance where he goes on a rant somewhat incoherently but always sarcastically attacking with quick insults mixed with keen observations and telling admissions. This strange scene stretches credulity. Why would Anna put up with a late night intrusion especially at the hands of an obnoxious insulting stranger? Ryan Kitley so over plays the scene that I instantly dislike Pale and wonder why Anna doesn’t demand he leave. She remarks that Pale looks like Robbie but from the video clips of Robbie, Pale doesn’t look like Robbie. So what is Anna’s fascination with the loud mouth?
Pale creates tension for Anna, Larry, and Burton. After Anna has a one night stand with Pale, the group dynamics are crushed. Who is the gun- toting Pale? Burton, the bisexual longtime boyfriend to Anna seems threatened by Pale but ever observant Larry acts as the plays conscience. The convoluted plot is muddled by Anna’s strange attraction to the animistic sensuality of Pale. I found it strange that the dapper dressed and cynically sophisticated Pale turns out to be a restaurant manager from Jersey. Pale’s intensity somehow is attractive to Anna who finally wants more from life that dance/choreography and a bi boyfriend can offer.
I found the play dated with too many 80’s references. The show seemed a tad under rehearsed and the acting was uneven with Kitley being too strong and LoConti too subdued. Szczpaniak’s honesty won the day. Burn This is not one of Lanford Wilson’s better plays. I never could see how Pale could be attractive to Anna beyond occasional sexual play and why Larry would play matchmaker between Pale and Anna. I just didn’t get much of Burn This.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: October 21, 2012
For more info checkout the Burn This page at theatreinchicago.com
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., chic ago,IL , call 773-795-8150, www.shatteredglobe.org. tickets $27 – $32, Thursdays & Fridays t 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through November 18, 2012