Monday, November 28, 2011

History Repeats Itself - The Life and Times of Mackenzie King - Theatre Review

The Life & Times Of Mackenzie King: The History Of The Village Of The Small Huts, 1918-39 - VideoCabaret at Cameron House - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Michael Hollingsworth
Runs until Dec. 18th 2011.
The War of 1812 will run at Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2012.

If history class could have only been this fun and snappy, I may have actually paid attention and taken more than just the Grade 9 requirement. If only I knew about Michael Hollingsworth's epic cycle of Canadian history back then, Canadian history could have been entertaining. Last year I finally caught my first VideoCabaret, The Great War and now the cycle continues onto the next portion of history, during the reign of Mackenzie King. Well, the play doesn't solely focus on Mackenzie King's tenure, fall, and rise again in Canadian Parliament, but follows his rivals, the unions and the other political shenanigans that happened at the time. The same time Mackenzie King spoke with his dead mother for advice. Yes, it's quite the hodgepodge and VideoCabaret mixes it all up in hilarious and biting fashion.

If you haven't seen a VideoCabaret show, then the show is worth it alone just to see the way Hollingsworth presents his satirical history plays. Done Black Box style, the theatre is pitch black and lights only show actors in white makeup and in over-exaggerated costumes and props appear to float in the theatre frame, giving it a flickering old film look. Lights go on and off with complete scene changes in what must make for some quick madness backstage, but gives the audiences quick scenes that speed thru Hollingsworth's bullet history points, all with a comic edge ticking at its pacing.

For The Life and Times of Mackenzie King, the issues at hand make it a bit more serious than last years The Great War (I know, right?) with less satirical zingers, perhaps because many of the social injustice issues being made fun of via Mackenzie King could be so relatable to now. With the Occupy movements, and unions being squashed by our current federal government, the realization that history is really repeating itself turns out to be less funny and more of a grave concern. It gives VideoCab's current show more poignancy than just a typical satyrical history play.

Many of the same actors are back from last year, including the hilarious Mac Fyfe, Paul Braustein, Greg Campbell and Richard Alan Campbell, but is joined this year by delightful newcomers Linda Prystawska and Jacob James. Jacob James has some particularly hilarious moments and it's hard to believe this is his first year as part of VideoCabaret.

Photos by Michael Cooper
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Tales in Two Cities - Red, The Normal Heart, Private Lives - Play Reviews

Red - Canadian Stage Company at Bluma Theatre in the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by John Logan, Directed by Kim Collier
Runs until Dec. 17th 2011

The Normal Heart - Golden Theatre - Broadway - New York, NY - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Larry Kramer, Directed by Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe
Ran until July 10 2011. Opens June 6 2012 at Arena Stage, Washington D.C.

The Normal Heart - Buddies and Bad Times Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Larry Kramer, Directed by Joel Greenberg
Ran until Nov. 6th 2011

Private Lives - Royal Alexandra Theatre - Toronto, ON - **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Private Lives - Music Box Theatre - Broadway - New York, NY - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Written by Noel Coward, Directed by Richard Eyre
Ran until Oct. 30th 2011 in Toronto, Began on Broadway Nov. 6th. 2011

So I saw Red, The Normal Heart and Private Lives both in Toronto and on Broadway in New York. Local Toronto productions of Red and The Normal Heart both managed to be very different, but just as outstanding as their Broadway counterparts of the same play in different productions with different direction and cast. Oddly, I saw the same production of the same play in two different cities, and came out with far different reactions. Private Lives opened in Toronto but by the time I finally saw it at the end of it's Toronto run, Paul Gross was out sick. Then as luck would happen, I was invited to see it on Broadway less than 2 weeks later, without an understudy, and it was like a whole different show. Amazing how one actor can change the entire dynamics of a play (albeit, basically a 4 person play).

Seeing John Logan's play Red again left me with the same quibbles about the play itself, which I think is a cleverly constructed play that makes some typical art issues and debates seem more brilliant and worldly. The play nicely stays tight on 2 particular years of Mark Rothko's life when he creates a work commissioned specifically for the Four Seasons restaurant of the new Philip Johnson/Mies van der Rohe Seagrams building. Hiring a young assistance gives the play a nice guise for Rothko to sprout his artistic beliefs to a fresh young painter with ideas of his own, but as I noted in my review from the Michael Grandage Donmar/Broadway production (which I also gave 4 stars out of 5), the play is deceptively simplistic and relies on tremendous performances to keep it colourful.

The new Toronto production, directed by Kim Collier (who directed the magnificent Studies in Motion last year for Canadian Stage), luckily has those colourful actors to fill the Rothko and the assistant's shoes. Jim Mezon (who was tremendous in this summer's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Shaw) has a slow burn growl with that glint of deep thoughts behind darting eyes under those Rothko spectacles. Newcomer David Coomber (probably the lone survivor from this summer's godawful play Bullets for Adolf by Woody Harrelson) grows some confidence and strength thru the play until his assistant Kin holds his own against Rothko, and I mean that as in the arc of the play. Coomber's freshness is played perfectly against a seasoned Mezon's Rothko, as they work the studio room, layering the air with one life account over another, as the paintings behind them keep switching out as 2 years goes by.

David Boechler's beautiful recreation of Rothko's studio is angled coming straight into the audience. It sort of lets Mezon's Rothko to thrust himself on us while his paintings loom towards the viewers as constant reminds of Rothko's dominance in the art world. Revealed behind two disappearing walls that formed a giant ice cube sitting on the stage as one entered the theatre, the soft glow of the studio lights breaks the cube (a joke about Rothko destroying the cubist painters before him? As pointed out by the Globe's Nestruck).

While the lighting and musical score seemed to have a bit too many pulsating heavy handed moments that tried to underline "the idea" of the scene, and the video interludes, while lovely, didn't quite seem to connect with the actual play itself despite being images of red brushstrokes, Kim Collier manages to keep the pace steady, moving Logan's play with a beautiful soft brush swathed over a large canvas. If Grandage painted a bold crimson canvas on his stage, with a domineering Alfred Molina almost crushing an easily lovable Eddie Redmayne, Collier seems to have a gentler hand with Mezon and Coomber, as if she's priming her canvas from left to right to Grandage's vertical strokes.

Collier's Red brings out more of the nuances between Rothko and his assistant. Since there's less of a physical threat (just due to the fact that the larger Mezon is still not as tall as the nimble Coomber, whereas Molina easily overbears Redmayne), Mezon's Rothko has a more reluctant guiding hand over Ken, and uses a calm-before-the-storm-threatening tone to outlay his power. It's a different hue to the play Red that makes the play compelling and mesmerizing despite it's flaws.

Seeing The Normal Heart for the first time on Broadway with it's starry cast, didn't quite leave me as emotionally ripped and teary eyed as many around me were (or had been told), but I did feel an anger towards the frustrating circumstances that gay men encountered when the AIDS virus first took hold of NYC in the 80's. Larry Kramer's play is quite a ranting exhibit of his own fight in rallying people, and specifically the gays of New York, and the politicians in charge to recognize here was a disease killing them. It's not the most elegant of plays, and the fragmented scenes gets the history across, but the humanity and the emotions play at heightened states, giving actors some juicy dramatic moments, but giving very little room for nuance and any actual true emotional connection, whether it between characters, or with the audience at hand.

The terrific Broadway cast includes television stars Jim Parsons (fun to see him doing a role very different to his Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory), Lee Pace (giving a different sexy swagger to his leading role in Pushing Daisies), Luke MacFarlane (Brothers & Sisters), some theatre vets Joe Mantello (Angels in America), John Benjamin Hickey (Cabaret), Patrick Breen (Next Fall), and film star Ellen Barkin in the lone female role. Barkin and Hickey won Tony Awards for their roles, and while Barkin puts up a feisty bravado, almost bullying performance as Dr. Brookner, I found it tended at times to lean towards being shouty and overdone. I applaud Barkin for the passion she put into the charged role, as the lone medical supporter to the case.

Joe Mantello also turns in a passionate performance as Ned Weeks, the central figure who is a veiled version of Larry Kramer himself (who was at the theatre every night handing out flyers after the show, if that gives you any indication about his passion for the cause). Kramer's passion turns to pushy annoyance as a real person, as a character and as a plot point, so Mantello dials it up and keeps it there. It may be accurate, and it gives the play the political and moral outraged required at the heart of the story, but it doesn't quite give it the actual heart. For that, John Benjamin Hickey gives a bravura performance that gives humanity to the piece, as a New York Times Style columnist Fleix Turner who falls in love with Ned Weeks.

The plain set is nicely boxed in with a white backdrop the a sculptural relief of words that gives it a simplicity and grandeur required to fill a Broadway house. On the flip side, the Toronto production (a co-production between Buddies and Bad Times with Studio 180) is set on a plain checkered floor in a in-the-round black box space. The intimacy helps the audience connect emotionally with the story and the characters and makes The Normal Heart seem a little less of a political play and far less of a rant piece.

It helps with a cast that includes Sarah Orenstein as Dr. Bruckner, who gives a far more nuanced portrayal while still keeping the anger level up. Jonathan Wilson is also just as excellent, angry and nuanced as Ned Weeks, and while stirs up that pushiness via the character, Wilson plays it at a tone without overdoing it. He's balanced by a terrific Jeff Miller as Felix, who gives a strong but giving counterpart. Paul Essiembre and Ryan Kelly are wonderful in their roles, while Greenberg keeps the play moving swiftly from all sides of the stage. It's a stellar production with a mostly great ensemble, but as with the Broadway production, even with the added intimacy, I still come out of The Normal Heart with anger at my heart, bustling with activism in the blood.

The case of Exes In (2 different) Cities: Private Lives is one of those oh-so-clever-British-Noel-Coward comedies set ups that would never happen in real life, but that's what the the-ah-tah is for. So yes, it's about Amanda and Elyot. Exes now both on their honeymoons to their new respective spouses. And of COURSE they happen to be next to each other in adjoining balconies. As the realization occurs, comedy and pratfalls abound as Amanda and Elyot reunite, reminisce, rekindle their love, remember their hatred for each other, and all the passions in between.

The reason for this latest revival is because Sex and the City's Kim Catrall plays Amanda and she purrs and flirts around in such British elegance that the iconic Samantha is easily forgotten. Her counterpart is Paul Gross, Canadian television, theatre, and film star (and probably best remembered in the US for Due South and Slings & Arrows), and Paul easily has the suave manly old-style charm that can pull off an Elyot. He's handsome and charming, but can still play rough, and has the command that can actually go against Catrall's sensual but strong Amanda. She's a modern women with old-school elegance and Catrall easily simmers between both ends, giving a wonderfully comic performance.

The problem in Toronto was with Gross out sick, his understudy, while genial, seemed soft and was completely trampled over by the strong Catrall. Hence the play, which really requires two equals in battle, felt unbalanced and thus unfunny. Catrall did her best and Simon Paisley Day and Anna Madeley get a bit more space to shine (since generally they are relegated on the back burner from the main show of Amanda and Elyot), and the understudy wasn't terrible, but the rhythm felt off and the play fell flat.

With Gross and Catrall at their prime, purring, shaking, growling, and simmering at each other, you see an Amanda and Elyot who are so wrong and yet so passionate about each other, they can't help destroy their lives, the room (in a stunning design by Rob Howell) and everyone around them. Day and Madeley do their best, with Day having some particularly hilarious quips, especially with Gross, and Caroline Lena Olsson gets some nice zingers as the French maid, but this is really Catrall and Gross' show and they have a lot of fun with it and it shows.

Photos for Red by Bruce Zinger
Photos for
The Normal Heart Toronto by John Karastamatis
Photos for
The Normal Heart Broadway by Joan Marcus
Photos for
Private Lives by Cylla von Tiedemann
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Bleeding Love - Romeo and Juliet & Love Lies Bleeding - Ballet Reviews

Romeo and Juliet - National Ballet of Canada - Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, Music by Sergei Prokofiev
Runs until Nov. 27th 2011

Love Lies Bleeding - Alberta Ballet - Sony Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - * (out of 5 stars)
Choreographed by Jean Grand Maitre, Music by Elton John

A brand new version of Romeo and Juliet has made its world premiere at the National Ballet, with hot young choreographer Alexei Ratmansky giving us his new vision of the classic tale. With the classic music of Prokofiev, Ratmansky has created a brand new ballet with new sets and costumes by Richard Hudson and a choreography that blends a touch of contemporary moves with more traditional Russian techniques.

The Alberta Ballet, which last brought their The Fiddle and the Drum to Toronto via the National Ballet, has taken their current populist project Love Lies Bleeding around Canada in a small tour. A ballet set to the music of Sir Elton John and Bernie Taupin detailing the life of Elton John via dance, there has been a lot of buzz going for it, but sadly disappoints.

The new Romeo and Juliet looks like a 70's modern take on the traditional Renaissance, with overly tall sets that use monochromatic muted colours in the sets and costumes, making it look like an old children's picture book come to life. It's a bold choice, since it looks dated already, but gives the story a fairytale feeling.

With the Montagues and Capulets not identified by a division of colours, the ensemble dances can seem confusing, but the leads easily stand out, while little story book moments seem to pepper the background. And with leads Guillaume Côté and Elena Lobsanova (for opening night, as the cast rotates through the performances), there's a romantic whimsy between the two dancers that clearly deserve full attention.

Guillaume Côté, as always, is a wonderful romantic lead. Pairing him with Elena Lobsanova, who seems delicate and wistful, truly gives this tale of teenagers in love a youthful and romantic charge. Lobsanova's dancing is strong yet light and airy (though she did take a tiny tumble on opening night but got right back up and continued as if nothing happened). The pas-de-deux under the balcony scene lets the two dancers beautifully charm each other (and us). Every moment these two get to dance with each other alone, there's a romantic air that cannot be manufactured, though with some help from Ratmansky's choreography.

Ramansky also gets to be more playful with the boys here, with some adorably humour choreography of Romeo, Benvolio (the always wonderful Robert Stephen) and Mercutio (Piotr Stanczyk). The three are given dances that truly show their bond together with Piotr Stanczyk giving a tour-de-force performance that explains Mercutio's loyalty (and his cheeky humour).

Jirí Jelinek is given some anger laced choreography as Tybalt and gives a great nemesis performance. Lorna Geddes is sweet and divine as the Nurse, while Rebekah Rimsay and Stephanie Hutchison are delightful as the Prostitutes.

This new production has some absolutely wonderful moments, but also seems to float along the fairytale line, making it a pleasant affair, but never quite reaches the dramatic emotional heights the story lends itself to.

On the other hand, the new Romeo at least has lots of beautiful choreography, which is more that can be said for Love Lies Bleeding. The highly anticipated latest work from the Alberta Ballet was a huge disappointment, despite having the use of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's songs.

Using popular songs with dance can easily help jump start a connection to an audience largely unfamiliar with ballet. When done right, like Rooster set to Rolling Stones music, it can culminate into a thrilling dance work that utilizes the power of beloved songs and translate them into emotionally powerful dance performance. Love Lies Bleeding seems merely content on presenting flashy costumes and dancers running in circles as it attempts to tell the tale of Sir Elton John himself.

The choreography throughout the entire show is lackluster at best, with a lot of butt shaking and circular running around the central Elton John double. There's very little actual ballet choreography within the dancing, and Maitre seems content on prosaic dance moves and simple grand gestures to move the piece along.

When the ballet (and that term should be used loosely here) finally has a hint of emotional depth, as Elton John meets his partner David Furnish (or what I assume is Furnish), and there's actually a lovely pas-de-deux, the show is over and we end with a big brassy encore. Amazingly, by trying too hard to be flashy and edgy, Maitre made Elton John music a bore.

Photos for National Ballet of Canada by Bruce Zinger
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Song Books - Seussical and The Yellow Brick Road - Musical Reviews

Seussical - Young People's Theatre - Toronto, ON - **** (out of 5 stars)
Music by Stephen Flaherty, Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Directed by Allen MacInnis
Runs until Dec. 30 2011

The Yellow Brick Road - Theatreworks USA at The Lucille Lortel Theatre - *** (out of 5 stars)
Music and Lyrics by Tommy Newman and Jaime Lozano, Book by Tommy Newman, Jaime Lozano and Mando Alvarando, Directed by Devanand Janki
Closed Off-Broadway on Aug. 19th 2011, Currently on a National Tour.

The newly renamed Young People's Theatre in Toronto has revived Seussical, in a brand new production based on the revised and shortened intermissionless version of the Broadway musical based on the works of Dr. Seuss. The Broadway production may have been considered a flop, and the book (of the musical) had always been problematic, but the music of Ahrens and Flaherty (who created the majestic and stunning Ragtime) is wonderful, fun and quite beautiful. YPT's delightful new production (different to their 2006 version) beautifully captures the best of the musical and manages to smooth over the wrinkles in the already streamlined book.

I'm not sure if YPT's current production is based on the new streamlined one-act version of Seussical, which first premiered at the Lucille Lortel Theatre by Theatreworks USA. I remembered enjoying that Off-Broadway production, with the great Theatreworks USA bringing free shows to NYC audiences every summer. Their latest new creation The Yellow Brick Road puts a latin spin on the classic tale of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz (and is currently on a National Tour).

Seussical the musical amalgamates different elements from Dr. Seuss books, using the Cat in the Hat (a wonderful Damien Atkins) who sort of defaults as a narrator. The Cat in the Hat tells the main tale of Horton the Elephant (a heartbreaking George Masswohl returning again in the same role) who hears a Who and tries to protect the little people of Whoville, lead by Jojo, the littlest Who (a dear Jennifer Villaverde). The Cat guides Jojo through the tale (in a sort of meta way) while pushing Jojo to think beyond the norm, in imaginative ways.

Meanwhile, a side story has Gertrude (an empathetic Jane Johanson) the bird with a small tail, trying to capture the heart of Horton, while selfish Mazzie (a delightfully hilarious Sharron Matthews) goes off on vacation, leaving her egg in Horton's care.

The cast, which also includes an angry kangaroo (with the soulful belty voice of Nichola Lawrence), is first rate, and bring the right amount of zany energy to the world of Seuss. Director Allen MacInnis (who directed the wonderful The Frog and Toad last year) keeps the flow mostly in check, and keeps all the different elements flowing together nicely, especially the narrator Cat in the Hat, who tends to pop in and out, and the story of the birds, which always seems to come out of nowhere and seemed annoying in the Off-Broadway incarnation that I saw.

George Masswohl is heartbreaking as Horton, and as dressed in ingenious costumes by Judith Bowden, his Horton the Elephant is endearing while giving a surprisingly emotionally deep performance. The show may be geared towards kids, but Masswohl gives the show the conviction required by a Ahrens and Flaherty show.

Seussical may be playing at the Young People's Theatre but the spirited energy of Dr. Seuss and a first rate production makes this musical one for all ages. So bring the kids, but if you don't have any, don't let that stop you.

The Yellow Brick Road is a new musical spin on The Wizard of Oz taken towards In the Heights. It places our new heroine Dora in New York City, just as she tries to avoid her quinceañera. Dora is soon whisked away to a strange land where she must follow the yellow brick road, and where she learns that learning the rhythms of her culture can help her find her way back home.

The story is a fun excuse to throw in a lot of Salsa and Meringue choreography into fun and rhythmic songs as Dora (Virginia Cavaliere) travels through a journey where she meets the Scarecrow (Ryan Duncan), Mountain Lion (Cedric Leiba, Jr.) and Iron Chef (Frank Viveiros) as they set off to meet the Wizard (Lexi Rhoades). This new version of a classic tale nicely spins things around into a modern day tale, giving it a fresh urban vibe while inserting some nice moral tales about respecting ones own culture and family.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shame (On Me) (Contest!)

See Shame, on me!

I'm giving away several passes to the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto screening of Shame on Thursday, Dec. 1st 2011 at 7pm from Alliance Films. Shame is the new film by Steve McQueen, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, which opens in theatres on Dec. 2nd.

So this it the film lots of people are talking about, and I'm dying to see Michael Fassbender's performance, which won him the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival. Michael Fassy is having quite the year, after being Magneto in X-Men: First Class, and now this is a very different and emotional role that strips him down, in more ways than one.

Here's the trailer:

To enter:

- Email me at tapeworthycontest at gmail dot com
And tell me which Canadian Film Festival the film Shame made it's Canadian premiere?

- Please include your name and email. (And twitter account name if you included the Bonus Entry tweet)

- For a BONUS ENTRY, follow @Tapeworthy and tweet this msg: "I want @Tapeworthy to give me Shame! (With Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan)"

The Details: - Contest closes at 11:59pm EST on Tuesday Nov. 22nd 2011. Only winners will be contacted directly by Wednesday Nov. 23rd 2011. Winners will be randomly drawn from all entries. Only one prize pass per person.

- Contest is open to residents of Canada. Prize does not include transportation.

- Prize consists of a Code to redeem for a Pass for 2 tickets to Shame
screening presented by Alliance Films on Dec. 1st at 7pm at Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto, Ontario. Doors to open at 6pm. Tapeworthy is not responsible for over-capacity of screening or the prize itself. Screenings are overbooked to ensure capacity. Please arrive early. Tickets are distributed on a first come, first serve basis. Code or Pass does not guarantee admission. No one will be admitted into the theatre with any type of audio or visual recording device, including cameras, cell phones with photo capabilities, laptops etc. Security will enforce this policy at the screening.

Film is subject to classification. Issuer has a right to refuse, revoke or limit admission in its sole discretion at any time.

Post Film:

Tweet your thoughts and feelings about Shame with hashtag #ShameFilm and/or @AllianceFilms in the tweet and Alliance Films will be choosing winners and giving away DVD prizes!

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is It Still Flaming Hot? - Burning - Play Review

Burning – The New Group at the Acorn Theatre in Theatre Row – Off-Broadway – New York, NY - *** (out of 5 stars)
Written by Thomas Bradshaw, Directed by Scott Elliott
Runs until Dec. 17 2011

Taboos only become taboos when a societal construct deems something so. When a unified response deems something morally reprehensible within human kind. So what happens when you have individual people who become so matter-of-fact with their urges and beliefs that they begin defying societal rules in order to satisfy ones own logic of identity?

Burning, the provocative and controversial new play by Thomas Bradshaw pokes at societal buttons in two somewhat-related stories in two different decades. In the 80’s, an established gay couple, who produce and star in Broadway shows, take in a gay teenage orphan wanna-be-actor, where the lines between servant, son, and sexual toy begin to blur. Fast forward to current times, and we see a Black painter who hides his race from the press, gets his racially shocking art pieces get misinterpreted at a Berlin gallery, winning the fans from a sibling duo of Neo-Nazis.

The premise is loaded enough, with plenty of fascinating and disturbing events and characters to explore. While the two stories are really connected with a third story, the link between the two seems more like a story contrivance than anything to further the two main stories. In fact, there’s so much going on, that this could have been easily split into two plays and had a deeper exploration behind some of the characters underlying decisions. The balance between the two plays, with wildly different tones, may help the overall epic nature of the play, but as fascinating and interesting as I could get involved in all the characters, the end left me still unconnected to several characters, including the German siblings (Drew Hildebrand and Reyna de Courcy) and the older gay theatre couple (Andrew Garman and Danny Mastrogiorgio).

When the play does work, the taboos don’t feel piled on for controversy’s sake, and the characters actually sound reasonable even while they dryly justify their actions. When the play works at its best, we get an understanding of why a character behaves and does the things they do, whether it be a need to simply satisfy human urges, or to use sexual power to advance themselves in a game of human chess.

Hunter Foster (Urinetown, Million Dollar Quartet) as the older version of the teenage boy Chris, who has now grown into a terrible actor, and Stephen Tyrone Williams (above with Doss) as Peter, the painter, are particularly convincing. Barrett Doss (as Gretchen, a German prostitute) and Larisa Polonsky (as Peter's wife) create fascinating portrayals, while Vladimir Versailles (as a relative of Peter's who meets Chris) and Evan Johnson (as the teenage orphan) bring a wonderful knowing naivety. However, the cast is wildly uneven and some seemingly in completely different plays (which in a way, they are). Was this Elliott’s intent? Maybe, as some comical moments seem to purposefully counter the mundane tone that re-affirms the matter-of-fact nature of the characters’ rationalization. The constant disrobing of characters and the amount of simulated sex becomes almost becomes a crux in the storytelling, or again, is the repetitiveness an effort to desensitize the audience?

There’s a beautiful set by Derek McLane (How To Succeed in Business, Without Really Trying, Anything Goes) that has nicely integrated lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski (Born Yesterday, Anything Goes) and video design by Wendall Harrington and Elliott manages to keep the many strands of storylines from the large ensemble cast easily separable and understandable while sharing the small stage.

While Burning has apparently been met with all sorts of strong reactions, I surprisingly found the play fascinating but never found it incendiary. I definitely did not hate it, but I never found the different stories connecting in a satisfying manner, and I'm not sure if it's because I missed some deeper level or layer, or if the play just never quite reaches the brilliancy it seems to seek. Nonetheless, for a play almost clocking in at 3 hours, I never found myself bored, though that neutral reaction may in fact inflame Bradshaw's intent.

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