Burn/This is a simple, yet powerful, play. Set in 1980s New York, it begins with the death of Robbie, a young dancer. He leaves behind his friend/roommate/dance partner, Anna (Keri Russell). There’s his other roommate Larry (Brandon Uranowitz), a gay advertising exec. And Anna’s screenwriter boyfriend, Burton (David Furr). The three are still dealing with Robbie’s death when Pale (Adam Driver), his brother, comes crashing into their lives. Things get flipped upside down with his arrival. He comes between Anna and Burton, while seeping into Larry’s life as well. Over the course of a year, the play deals with these complicated relationships, grief, and identity.
Driver’s Pale is hilarious and tragic at the same time. He doesn’t know what to do with his pain, so he vomits it all over the stage. His character says some fucked up things and you want to hate him. But then he makes you laugh again and you feel for him. At times, Driver chews the scenery, but he reels it in and makes Pale more of a person and less of a caricature.
Russell has a much quieter character. But Anna doesn’t fall into Pale’s shadow. She is able to go toe-to-toe with him. The story is just as much about her evolution, as she attempts to figure out who she is personally and professionally. And Russell brings out all of Anna’s layers and emotions beautifully.
There are also great performances from the two supporting actors. Larry is often the comic relief in the play, but Uranowitz brings a great deal of heart and depth to the character as well. Similarly, Burton could easily be categorized as a douchey yuppie. But, Furr makes him three dimensional and not just another cliché.
Lanford Wilson’s script is extraordinary and holds up years later in this revival. Plus, director Michael Mayer brings new life to it with his staging. I also have to point out the amazing set design. The stage is transformed into an authentic NYC loft, complete with balcony. The windows, alone, had me.