BURN THIS review

Nathan Neorr as Pale & Gina Cerimele-Mechley as Anna. Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

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BURN THIS presented by New Edgecliff Theatre through Oct. 15. You can read the show description here.

It’s hard to review a play that isn’t quite where it needs to be on opening night.

Overall I found the show to be emotionally…apathetic. A good part of that was due to the pacing of the show.  I understand that the running time of two hours (with one 15-minute intermission) is an approximation, but I shouldn’t be leaving the theater at 10:20pm when a play begins at 7:30pm. Quicker line pick-ups and fewer pregnant pauses would tighten up the run time.

The other problem is that although I heard strong personalities and emotions in the words of the script, I didn’t always see that incorporated into the performances on stage.

Jason Burgess’ portrayal of Larry, the sassy gay roommate, is consistent throughout the show, if not a little bit stereotypical. But, given the 1987 setting of the play, it works for the most part. Where he stumbles a bit is with his comic timing. Larry has some great, funny lines, that would really shine with the addition of timing beats and vocal variety.

However, and I apologize in advance if this comment comes off as too harsh, but I would like to ask directors to really consider how you portray characters not of your sex or sexual orientation on stage. I don’t understand why Larry would mimic a cat in heat and dry hump a couch, aiming this sexual aggression at the brother of his one-month-dead roommate, whom he just met ten minutes ago. This “side” of Larry comes out of nowhere and never returns, so I strongly question the decision to do it.

John Wilmes as Burton & Gina Cerimele-Mechley as Anna. Photo by Mikki Schaffner.

Gina Cerimele-Mechley is believable as former dancer turned choreographer Anna. At times I felt that there was alot going on internally with her character that wasn’t outwardly manifested for the audience to see. She would hit emotional point A and emotional point B, but I couldn’t see the journey from one to the other in face, voice or body language.

Nathan Neorr as Pale/Jimmy had the strongest and most consistent character on stage. What I found missing were glimpses of the true man underneath the grief and anger that somehow connects with Anna, Larry, and ultimately the audience.

As for John Wilmes’ Burton, I would like to see the actor make some stronger decisions for the character, especially in his interactions with long-time lover Anna. For all the accomplishments of the character, (comes from money, successful screenwriter, fit and athletic,) he comes off a bit milquetoast.

Nathan Neorr as Pale and Jason Burgess as Larry. Photo by Mikke Schaffner.

I enjoyed the set design by Melissa Bennett. It works well within the available space of the theater. It could use a bit more character as far as distressing and personal touches.

Costumes work for the most part although a few more choices to set the time frame would have been welcome. Speaking of time frame, Larry’s wrestling shoes were not a footwear option in 1987. It did seem like a few costumes repeated and I wasn’t a fan of Larry’s hot pink short-shorts and Les Mis T-shirt the first time I saw them. The long sleeve shirt/sweats combo makes more sense for the time of year anyway.

One small note for the sound design. The cityscape sound effects worked well (and were well executed) but there was the sound of a ringing cell phone that really stood out in the repeating clip.

Since the second act takes place over four scenes that jump time I was watching the information listed in the program. It lists scene one as New Year’s Eve, scene two and New Year’s Day, scene three as [one] month later (February, opening night of the dance show) and scene four as [one] month later (March??) even though Larry states that the dance show is only running four days and the final scene takes place after a performance. It left me a bit confused.

BURN THIS is a very challenging script for the actors and I can see them working very hard. The final push to unify the show has to come from the director and I’m not sensing Tim Waldrip’s influence as strongly as I would like.

Bottom line, this production is a commendable attempt at a very challenging script. I do believe it will be a much stronger show in its final two weekends.

Click here for a complete list of showtimes for BURN THIS.

I would love to hear what you think about the show or my review. You can post your comments below.

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