Passion can strike at any time. And when two violently opposed individuals are involved, the results can be tumultuous. Anna, a dancer who is mourning the loss of her dance partner Robbie, encounters Robbie’s brother Pale when he bursts into her loft in the middle of the night to retrieve his brother’s belongings. Dangerous, sexy, raw, and demanding, Pale interrupts the course of Anna’s calm existence and leads her into an explosive encounter from which there is no turning back in this modern classic.
BOSTON — The Huntington Theatre Company presents Lanford Wilson’s searing, turbulent drama, Burn This, at the B.U. Theatre Nov. 12 through Dec. 12, 2004. The play, updated by the author for a successful 2002 run in New York City, centers on the aftershocks of a dancer’s tragic death, and the emotional turmoil it inflicts on his friends and family.
The Huntington’s production includes a mix of new-to-Boston faces and returning favorites. Burn This, directed by Susan Fenichell, stars Nat DeWolf (from the Huntington’s Betty’s Summer Vacation) as Larry, Brian Hutchison as Burton, Anne Torsiglieri (from the Huntington’s Marty) as Anna, and film and television actor Michael T. Weiss as Pale.
Burn This has set design by James Noone, costume design by Candice Donnelly, lighting design by Mary Louise Geiger and sound design by Drew Levy (who recently designed sound for Sonia Flew). The production’s fight director is Paul Savas.
“With this spectacular cast, Susan at the helm, and Lanford’s fresh revisions to the play, I expect our production of Burn This will be a highlight of the season,” says Nicholas Martin, the Huntington’s Norma Jean Calderwood Artistic Director.
About Burn This
Set in New York City, Burn This centers on Anna, a dancer-turned-choreographer, whose roommate and dance partner Robbie has been killed during a boating excursion. The death sets off Lanford Wilson’s drama about loss, passion, and betrayal. Anna’s roommate Larry, and her boyfriend, Burton, share her grief for Robbie, but it is the explosive, volatile grief of Robbie’s older brother, Pale, that illuminates the real tragedy of this untimely death.
After Robbie’s wake and funeral, an unannounced Pale bursts into Anna and Larry’s apartment in a cocaine- and alcohol-fueled frenzy. No one is safe from his corrosive verbal attacks as he rages against New York City and the pretensions of urban loft-dwellers. An Italian-Catholic restaurateur with undisguised contempt for the art world, Pale cannot reconcile himself to his brother’s homosexuality or success as a dancer. And though Pale and Anna argue violently about Robbie’s lifestyle, a sense of mutual loss drives them toward an unexpected intimacy. Their desperation ignites a charged cycle of desire and regret that haunts Anna as she begins to establish herself in New York’s cutthroat dance scene.
Throughout the play, the characters question how they will forge their commitments to art and to love. Burton, a commercially successful screenwriter, struggles to write a story about the “distances between people.” Larry, a gay advertising executive, confronts the shallowness that pervades his professional and personal relationships. And Anna, whether as a choreographer or as Pale’s erstwhile lover, hunts for meaning in “bodies, space, sculptural mass, distance relationships.” Burton advises Anna and Larry that the only path to creative fulfillment is to “make it personal, tell the truth, and then write ‘Burn this’ on it.”
Q: You wrote that Mr. Weiss was interested in doing this play. How come he is doing it with the Huntington Theatre Company? And who recommended the other cast members?
A: We have a casting director in NY who makes casting recommendations, and sometimes actors come to us by way of knowing the director, artistic director or assoc artistic director. Both Nat DeWolf and Anne Torsiglieri had done other shows here previously. I don’t know as we can take credit for “convincing” Michael to do the show – it was a play he was interested in and he wanted to do some live theatre.
Q: Will you extend the run of the play beyond December 12?
A: No, the run is set.
Q: Will you take it on the road thru the US with the same cast?
A: No. Occasionally our productions get remounted at other regional theatres or on Broadway, but there are no plans thus far for Burn This.
Q: The play has only four characters. Does this become a hard task for the director, as well as for the actors?
A: The cast and the director had a great relationship, so I think they enjoyed being a foursome very much. Obviously the fewer characters the more lines for each actor, but they all learned them!
Q: How long was the rehearsal period?
A: 3 Weeks.
Q: How did the preview performances go? I’ve read some great reviews from several newspapers, so even the critics love the production. But how does the general audience react?
A: Previews went well, as did the run in general. It especially picked up speed in terms of audience size after Thanksgiving. People seem to get more in the mood to come see shows in the holiday season.
Hope that helps. Sorry I didn’t have more specifics to offer you about the actors’ experience of the play and their characters. They did have a good time and a great run.