Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Burn ThisThe Players Centre for Performing Arts
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of Turandot, Sweat, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Perfect Arrangement


Nick Catanzaro (foreground), Amanda Heisey,
and Joshua Brin

Photo Courtesy of The Players Centre for Performing Arts
I have seen a fair number of Lanford Wilson's plays, including The Madness of Lady Bright, two of the three "Talley" plays (Talley's Folly and Fifth of July), The Rimers of Eldritch, The Hot l Baltimore, and Book of Days. Wilson was a talented playwright of quite a wide range. But I just don't think I get Burn This. What is Wilson trying to tell us? Three characters who already know each other come together more closely after a fourth one's death, then an estranged, mysterious (at least at first) brother enters the mix. Over the two-hour production at The Players Centre for Performing Arts I learn a little more about them, but not enough to become emotionally vested. Their interactions don't shed any light on the larger world they inhabit, so that isn't the purpose of this play. I am surprised The Players are mounting it.

The acting is a mixed bag, with two actors right for their roles, at least within limits, and two who are not a particularly good fit. Amanda Hisey as the central character Anna is a good fit. All she is missing is the intensity of a longtime New Yorker. I love the way Ms. Hisey keeps challenging herself, stretching away from her dancer/singer center of gravity. She brings a decent amount of warmth to the part and the ability to project Anna's confusions regarding her feelings toward Pale, played by Nick Catanzaro. Mr. Catanzaro is 10 years too young to ideally play this character, although he projects a few years beyond his youthful early 20s. He is earthy as an actor, making Anna's push/pull feelings toward Pale understandable.

Joshua Brin as roommate Larry seems miscast, but let me be clear, the role is atrociously written as a mincing stereotypical gay man, with little self regard. Since the play dates from 1986 and the playwright was openly gay, I find this portrayal particularly offensive. Every time he made a sloppy pass at one of the other two male characters I cringed. Jackson Linn as Burton, successful writer and suitor to Anna, is way too young for this part—I can't imagine that this level of success has been reached before age 30 (or more) and Mr. Linn seems to project about his actual age, early 20s. More incisive costuming could help project his financial status.

Director Amanda Schlachter has to be faulted for some of what goes wrong. I realize that in community theatre ideal casting is sometimes a wish your heart makes when you only have a small pool of auditioners to choose from. The production lacks focus, which is partly the fault of the script, but not greatly helped by the direction. Georgina Wilmott provides the costumes; a limited budget certainly inhibited her. No one is credited for set design, which is the most successful element despite a wild mixture of period for various elements.

Some of the problems with the Players Centre production of Burn This are built in. Financial restraints are the norm and variable acting comes with the territory, but I think the biggest issue is a script that left me unengaged. Perhaps a superlative cast and brilliant director could make more of this play.

Burn This, through February 17, 2019, at The Players Centre for Performing Arts, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. Box Office: 941-365-2494. For more information visit www.theplayers.org.

Cast:
Anna: Amanda Heisey
Pale: Nick Catanzaro
Larry: Joshua Brin
Burton: Jackson Linn


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