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BURN/THIS Lorna C. Hill Theatre/Bellissima Productions
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Jan 30, 2024, 13:03
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Through February 4
BURN/THIS Lorna C. Hill Theatre/Bellissima Productions

Early on in Bellissima Productions’ “Burn/This,” I was reminded of that 1983 classic movie “The Big Chill.”
They have one key central plot point, the essential character around which the story revolves, here Robbie, is dead and gone.
In “Chill,” time cuts took Kevin Costner out of the role as the dead guy, leaving only a picture of him in his coffin.
The rest of Lanford Wilson’s characters are left behind and are forced to live with his abrupt and mysterious death.
That’s his two roommates in a Downtown Manhattan loft, Anna (Karen Harty) and Larry (Zachary Murphy), also, Anna’s guy Burton (Matt Giangreco) and a wild card we only meet later, Pale (Ben Caldwell).
The word of Robbie’s death in a freak boating accident doesn’t get around quickly and Anna and Larry are just back from a painful funeral, made worse by the dead man’s family, which, apparently, doesn’t want to deal with his status as a gay dancer, known in the cultural community.
The three are different, Anna an apprentice dance choreographer; Larry a disillusioned and gay advertising executive; and, Burton a successful movie script writer so rich he doesn’t have to work.
They are trying to work out their individual and collective angst when that wild card shows up, Pale, Robbie’s drunken restaurant manager brother who successfully puts the moves on Anna.
That’s even though he’s married and has a wife and two kids in an upscale Jersey suburb, where he spends little time.
It gets very tangled because Burton has been considering asking Anna, again, to marry him.
He learns quickly Pale has cut into Anna and Burton’s fragile relationship.
It’s not that these are bad people, although they aren’t necessarily good people.
They just have that theatrical knack of making bad decisions.
That’s responsible for what goes wrong and what goes right.
The big problem for director Nicolette Navarro is keeping three relatively laid-back main characters from being overwhelmed by Caldwell’s intense and drugged Pale.
Sometimes, she slips.
The biggest problem with the show is its venue, the Lorna C. Hill Theatre, a recent and wonderful addition to the local architecture.
“Burn/This” is a four-character, one set show, small for the Hill.
There are moments when it feels like looking from those high rows in the upper deck in Shea’s.
That’s a small cavil for a strong production with some very good performances, particularly Caldwell.

A.W.

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