With Kiss Me Kate still bubbling around in my brain, the above title was the obvious choice for my reflections on Burn/This, the play our group of 37 recently saw. That said, if I adhered to my normal standard for topics I choose to write about, there would probably not be a title as there would not be a blog post.
The guiding principle for this blog is to share ONLY the experiences that we at Grab Your Group and GO love: experiences that energize and enthuse, so that you can be energized and enthused too. This blog is called Grab Your Group and GO – NOT – Grab Your Group and DO NOT GO – for a reason. (What a bummer the latter blog would be.) As an ethic on this site and in life frankly, we prefer to celebrate accomplishments and seek out the positive in offerings and experiences (if you look hard enough there is usually something positive to derive). When we don’t find it, we don’t write about it.
This could rightly be categorized as pollyannish. But as the role of critic which involves being critical does not “spark joy” – we excise it from our repertoire. When I first started sharing my reflections on the shows we see, I tried the critic hat on for size and shared my thoughts when I didn’t like or even loathed a show, but that wasn’t fun. No joy was derived from the process of tearing a show apart (knock yourself out New York Times). These artists – authors, playwrights, musicians, actors, lyricists, etc. work so hard in all their various capacities sharing their talents and passions with us. I am dazzled and grateful they put themselves out there for our cultural pleasure.
So I will continue to firmly and happily embrace my stance as an enthusiast in opposition to a critic whenever possible. Which is not say I don’t have negative opinions or thoughts and can’t put them into writing (how annoying would that be?). If I have critical things to say about a show I will share in conversation, but not in writing. Which is a long of way of saying why the below paragraph is all I have to say about Burn/This.
While there was much to like and appreciate about Burn/This; I did not LOVE the show. I went into this play with super high expectations for some fearsome, palpable chemistry and a yearning, but tortured pas de deux of sorts (the main female character is a dancer). But this fell flat for me (and my seatmates cough, cough my husband). So excited was I to witness what was pre-conceived in my brain, that my brain could not get wrapped around LOVING what there was to love of the individual performances.
Just because my affection for Burn/This fell short, it doesn’t mean you might not love it. There were many, many people in the group that did love this play. Maybe your experience will be more like these people…? Our group represents multiple voices. It is practically our unique responsibility as a group that sees many, many shows together to share those voices. OFTEN we represent as a collective, but this time we didn’t. So I asked those that did love this show to share their thoughts.
Now and when this happens again in the future it can be under the umbrella of:
Grab Your Group and THINK about Going…
Here are some positive perspectives from the people I reached out to who loved Burn/This. Thank you, dear friends and fellow theater geeks, for sharing your voices with us. Happy reading and happy thinking about whether or not to Grab Your Group and GO. Let me know what you decide!
Lisa: I loved it for reasons other than the “promised” chemistry (which I agree fell short). I tend to appreciate plays with notable individual performances and where Keri Russel disappointed, Driver and the others made up for it. I thought his performance was as “epic” (since they used that word in the play) as his physical presence. He had (for me, at least) a bizarre ability to repulse me and draw me in at the same time. I waited for him to come back on stage when he wasn’t on and perhaps that’s why I could imagine the chemistry between him and “Anna” even though it felt more subdued than we all were expecting. Generally speaking, I was entertained, laughed a lot, loved 3 out of 4 of the performances and I LOVE the 80s so, there you go.
Julia: Loved Burn/This! Sexy story, sexy stars and a great pair of supporting actors. Keri Russell feels like an old friend. I mean I’ve been watching her since Felicity. Adam Driver is more like a new friend. Not sure if I like him or not, but he definitely has stage presence. The gay roommate was very entertaining, he didn’t miss a beat, and the trust-fund boyfriend was an interesting character and well acted. I liked that he had a certain vulnerability and a confidence at the same time. How about his gay-experience story?! Wow, didn’t expect that. It was a well-written play. Something very 80s about it. It reminded me of a Jay McInerney novel. Remember Bright Lights, Big City? Kind of like that. Broken people adrift in New York City. Glamour, but also sadness. Not sure this couple makes it in the end. Burn/This first opened in 1987. Of course it did.
Tierney: You want a master class in performances? Go see Burn/This. Each of the four actors pull off impressively gritty roles that are deeply rooted in emotional, relatable realism. Adam Driver enters like a freight train, and remains on fire for the rest of the show. Pale is a man on the edge, talking a mile a minute before breaking down and showing the depth of his grief and pain. Keri Russell’s Anna is also broken and lost, but in a different way. She’s visibly exhausted and withdrawn and can’t decide which way to turn. Her back and forth with Driver reveals these two messes of people understanding each other in an intimate and emotional manner. Their chemistry easily carries the show.
Brandon Uranowitz’s Larry is originally written off as the comic relief, but ultimately becomes the emotional backbone the other characters turn to. Even when he isn’t speaking and is just listening to Anna and Pale fight, his visible reactions cement his integral place in the conversation. I found myself watching Uranowitz a lot. It’s a testament to him that he could grow and express his character in these quiet moments (especially when he’s between Driver and Russell). David Furr ends up being the 4th wheel (not his fault, that’s the way the character is written), but even Burton got a great amount of depth. After playing the straight man for most of the show, we see his sad realization towards the end of Act 2 that he isn’t going to win. Instead of getting angry and storming out, he sighs and hangs his head before mustering up the courage to simply walk away.
The audience can see themselves in each of the actors’ performances at some point or another through feelings of passing through life and not enjoying it or succeeding at it to your full potential. You can feel the heavy weight of guilt and fear and loneliness Pale and Anna feel as you watch Driver and Russell. At times I actually forgot they were acting.