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A New York Theatre Guide to... Burn This!
Here's all you need to know about this fiery Broadway revival...
Following its Los Angeles world premiere and Off-Broadway premiere in early 1987, Lanford Wilson’s Burn This moved to the bright lights of Broadway, officially opening in October of that same year with a cast that included Joan Allen (in her Tony Award-winning Broadway debut) and John Malkovich. Now, over three decades later, the first-ever Broadway revival is being mounted at the Hudson Theatre, where it began previews on March 15, 2019 and officially opened on April 16. The limited engagement is currently scheduled to conclude on July 14, 2019.
What’s it all about?
Set during the 1980s in a loft in a converted cast-iron building somewhere in lower Manhattan, Burn This begins shortly after the funeral of a young dancer named Robbie, who tragically drowned along with his boyfriend Dom during a boating accident. We meet Robbie’s former roommates – Anna, who was his dance partner and is also an aspiring choreographer, and Larry, who is also gay and works in advertising. Anna’s long-time partner Burton, a wealthy screenwriter, arrives to comfort her and we get a sense of a relationship of convenience between the two. Enter Pale, a volatile, cocaine-snorting restaurant manager in New Jersey and older brother of Robbie, who Anna has only just met at the funeral. Enticed by unpredictability, danger and ultimately passion, will Anna leave Burton and embark on a new relationship with Pale? Will she follow her head or her heart?
Who’s starring in it?
This first-ever Broadway revival is headlined by Academy and Tony Award nominee Adam Driver as Pale, alongside Golden Globe winner Keri Russell, making her Broadway debut as Anna. These are two very familiar faces from the worlds of film and television and you’ll probably recognise Adam from his three-time Emmy-nominated role as Adam Sackler on HBO’s “Girls” or his Oscar-nominated role as Flip Zimmerman in “BlacKkKlansman” or his fan favorite role as Kylo Ren in the current “Star Wars” movie franchize. Keri has been nominated for three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes for her role as Elizabeth Jennings on FX’s “The Americans” and won a Golden Globe as Felicity Porter on The WB’s “Felicity”. She’s also starred in a number of blockbuster movies, the likes of “Mission: Impossible III” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” and critics’ favorites such as “August Rush” and “Waitress”. These two screen greats are joined on stage by a couple of Broadway stalwarts with three-time Tony Award nominee Brandon Uranowitz starring as Larry and Tony Award nominee David Furr taking on the role of Burton.
What’s special about this production?
As one of Burton’s line goes: “Make it personal, tell the truth, and then write ‘Burn This’ on it…” Playwright Lanford Wilson, similar to some of his other work, has written a play that takes a deep look at relationships and also explores themes of gay identity. He cleverly lulls the audience into a false sense of security during the first scene until the entrance of Pale… one of the most eye-popping and explosive entrances you’re ever bound to see in a straight play. Adam Driver catches the ball and runs with it here and his performance as the unpredictable outsider is nothing short of mesmerizing. No wonder he has been nominated for a Tony Award for this commanding turn, which is intimidating and comic in equal parts. The rest of the comedy – and this comes in abundance – relies on the performance of Brandon Uranowitz (also currently Tony-nominated), who visibly relishes in the flamboyance of Larry and shows off perfect comic timing. Yet, he also manages to capture Larry’s loneliness, questioning his place in the world. Keri Russell is every bit the stage siren, both sensual and sensitive as Anna and a special mention also goes to scenic designer Derek McLane, whose lower Manhattan backdrop is so masterfully put together with great detail and use of the illusions of depth. It almost feels like a fifth character the way it comes alive as we journey from night to day in the piece. There are a few 80s references in Burn This (most notably the choice of music accompanying scene change interludes and the odd onstage pair of shoulder pads), but this is a drama as relevant today as it ever was. Lanford Wilson certainly had a way of connecting audiences to his fully-developed characters. I wonder if he always anticipated their longevity…
Who would we recommend it to?
Burn This is a perfect date night. It’s also a piece that New Yorkers and New Jerseyites will find extraordinarily relatable beyond its universal themes. As F-bombs are dropped like they’re going out of fashion and the sexual references are quite graphic at times, we certainly wouldn’t recommend this for younger theatregoers. But for those a little longer in the tooth, especially if you’re not a regular visitor to Broadway, Burn This is truly on fire!
Burn This Tickets are avilable now.
(Photos by Matthew Murphy)