Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Nov. 16, 2001
Burn This: Hot and BotheredThe Hideout,
through November 17
Running Time: 2 hrs
Caroline St. Denis is crying.
She's playing the role of Anna in the Alchemy Works production of Lanford Wilson's Burn This, and her eyes are rimmed with red, tears are sliding down her cheeks, and her nose is making sounds the way noses do when they get all drippy like that.
But St. Denis isn't crying because Wilson's story isn't a thoroughly modern and brilliant examination of how unexpected passion can wrench lives previously shaped by its lack. Nor is she crying because Timothy J. Verret, who plays her gay roommate Larry, isn't convincing in his role as foil to Anna and her screenwriter boyfriend Burton and her caustic paramour Pale. And she's not crying because Paul Conrad doesn't present us with a believable Burton, a writer who sidesteps the potential for deep, raw emotion in his own life partly by relegating such feelings to people far removed from him by money or history. And she's not crying because Scott Bate's performance as the brittle, violent, and initially cocaine-fueled Pale isn't powerful and even astonishing at times.
No, Caroline St. Denis is crying because her character is often required to cry in this vivid drama; because Anna's best friend and dance partner Robbie recently died, because she's struggling with artistic life choices that require much soul-searching, and now because she's scared by what her besieged heart is telling her about this suddenly intruding Pale guy -- the late Robbie's older brother -- who is not (to put it lightly) her type at all.
And, basically, St. Denis is crying because she can. Besides handling the other requirements of her role with a professional sureness, this woman also has the knack of automatic waterworks; and it's an impressive knack. Which knack -- and everything else about this fierce work of theatre -- is beautifully brought out and orchestrated by director Lorie Marsh. The characters' movements around each other and through their upscale apartment are such that, when they seem other than the naturally random movements of such people, they seem purposeful due to each character's self-conscious choice. Nothing is stagey here (except for the intermittent, appropriately art-faggish posing of Larry), and this is important when a show's trucking in hyper-realism. Especially when a gaffe would so obviously contrast with the smart, you'd-swear-people-actually-live-in-it set designed by Stephen Pire and the precise costuming of Meredith Moseley.
Now you might suspect, because extremely realistic drama about art and relationships is this reviewer's favorite kind of theatre, that I'd be biased in favor of this production. Well, belay that suspicion; the opposite is true. When production flaws are visited upon such a wonderfully concrete script, I take it almost personally. Which is why I'm so comforted and impressed, here, and why this Alchemy Works show is so near the top of my Anti-Shit List this year. Because it's a very human production, friends, but one so nearly flawless in its presentation that you remember why some humans are considered saints.