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Landford Wilson’s "Burn This" at the Hudson Theatre
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Landford Wilson’s "Burn This" at the Hudson Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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David Binder et al.
and Ambassador Theatre Group
Executive Producers:
Eric Schnall, Wendy Orshan, Jeffrey M. Wilson

Adam Driver and Keri Russell

David Furr and Brandon Uranowitz

In Landford Wilson’s
Burn / This
(Burn / This Website)

Directed by Michael Mayer

At the
Hudson Theatre
141 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036

Scenic Design: Derek McLane
Costume Design: Clint Ramos
Lighting Design: Natasha Katz
Sound Design: David Van Tieghem
Fight Director: J. Steven White
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA,
James Calleri, CSA, Erica Jensen, CSA
Advertising: RPM
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Production Stage Manager: Lisa Iacucci
Company Manager: Katie Pope
General Manager: 101 Productions, Ltd.
Press Representative: Polk & Co.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 18, 2019

What a memorable night at Lanford Wilson’s Burn This at the Hudson Theatre, with the ever charismatic Adam Driver taking on the role of Pale, a manager of a New Jersey restaurant, who has giant limbs, giant passion, giant strength, and giant stage presence. If only he had been cast with a woman of at least quasi charisma. Keri Russell, svelte, chic, self-contained, needed to inwardly seethe, just enough to lend credibility to her intimate scenes with Mr. Driver, just enough to credibly drive him crazy. In fact, two men were swinging fists and limbs, black belt style, for this woman. What woman wouldn’t be impressed to have men risk so much, like lions in heat.

Anna (Ms. Russell), a dancer-choreographer, is in a dating relationship with Burton (David Furr), who writes film scripts. Her current roommate in her sparsely furnished lower Manhattan apartment, with a view of warehouses and water towers, is Larry (Brandon Uranowitz) an advertising designer, who loves to dance. Anna and Larry are grieving the sudden loss of their third roommate, Robbie, a dancer, who drowned with his lover, Dom, when their small boat capsized. Pale is Robbie’s older brother, also grieving, and very emotionally needy. Anna’s description of a visit to Robbie’s family at home, at the time of the funeral, revealed just how unique and sensitive Robbie must have been with traditionally conservative upbringing. Robbie had been Anna’s dance partner and had introduced her to choreography. Anna feels rootless at her studio now, as she is set to mount a new project. But, we learn all this through dialogue, gesture, and innuendo, not from projected drama, that is, on Anna’s part.

As for Mr. Uranowitz, who, along with Mr. Driver, has been favorably reviewed on these pages over the years, here is an outsized personality who grips the eye whenever he’s onstage. Larry’s lighthearted quips and Pale’s self-deprecating humor keep the show from dissolving in tears. Larry, who has not found the man of his life, is bound to Anna in soulmate reverie. Their match is so perfect, that one can only assume, that with Robbie, they were a tenacious trio. The loss is so palpable. When Pale and Anna find themselves alone, they’re reminiscent of the casual sex of the Hamptons in the 80’s (the play is set in the late 80’s), hooking up with the level of excitement of smoking their cigarette; a feel good moment. They create approach-avoidance conflicts, with verbal fisticuffs and shifting moods, then tumble together on the floor. Mr. Driver exudes enough primal magnetism to fill the theater, while Ms. Russell seems ready to grab her bag and go shopping. When Burton arrives unexpectedly, to see Pale and Anna making a nest for themselves, that’s when the room gets hot.

I’d love to see Mr. Wilson’s remarkable play again, and Michael Mayer, Director, made the most of this cast and dialogue. Derek McLane’s set is perfectly suited to downtown in the 80’s, while Clint Ramos dressed the cast in formal, casual, bedtime, and comedy skit attire. That skit involved Pale wearing Anna’s kimono styled nightshirt, as he hadn’t planned to spend the night. One can imagine Mr. Driver’s muscular limbs exploding from the dainty textile. Natasha Katz’ lighting swerved from industrial to dim, while David Van Tieghem’s sound design was exceptional, especially when characters were hugging, tumbling, or wrestling. J. Steven White, fight director, is to be commended that the actors brushed off after one altercation. Kudos to Lanford Wilson.

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