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Eroticism can't heat up lukewarm 'Burning'
Erotic kindling fails to catch in off-Broadway's lukewarm 'Burning'
By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) ' The bare-all approach notwithstanding, it's difficult to know what to make of Thomas Bradshaw's sprawling and sexually explicit drama "Burning."

The play seemingly strives to be a modern, erotic epic ' with its tragic hero, three interwoven storylines that span a generation, a litany of nude sex scenes and a performance time of nearly three hours.

Despite the passage of time, Bradshaw's characters don't exhibit much growth and the persistent, artless eroticism that pervades this unusual piece is ultimately as tiresome as it is gratuitous.

"Burning," which opened Monday at off-Broadway's Acorn Theatre, tussles with issues of race relations, sexual identity, loss and forgiveness. But if there is a message behind this oddly raunchy and coldly staged parable, its true meaning is anyone's guess.

Many of Bradshaw's characters have glaring moral deficiencies and are disturbingly smarmy, but that's only part of what makes them unlikable.

There's Jack (Andrew Garman), a renowned actor with a fragile ego, who also happens to be the head of the drama department at a prestigious New York performing arts high school.

After interviewing a young applicant named Chris (Evan Johnson), a 13-year-old who recently lost his mother to a drug overdose, Jack and his partner decide to adopt the boy. But the couple's generosity is spurred by something less virtuous than altruism.

Jack's partner, Simon (Danny Mastrogiorgio), is a Broadway producer who bullies a playwright, Donald (Adam Trese), into transforming his ensemble piece into a one-man show. Simon orders the rewrite to lower the cost of production but also to appease Jack, who is conveniently cast in the lead role and doesn't want to share the spotlight with other actors.

In another tale, a self-absorbed New York artist, Peter (Stephen Tyrone Williams), repeatedly puts his own interests before those of his wife, Josephine (Larisa Polonsky), and his cousin Franklin (Vladimir Versailles) ' an impressionable, if naive, teen still mourning the death of his mother.

The third portrait is set in Berlin, where a young neo-Nazi, Michael (Drew Hildebrand), is forced to care for his sister Katrin (Reyna de Courcy) after she was paralyzed in a car accident that killed their parents. The beer-guzzling, thickly accented German siblings conspire to promote their agenda of white supremacy. But more shocking than their political views is how Bradshaw grossly exaggerates these characters ' or caricatures.

Under the direction of Scott Elliott, many of the actors seem to overplay their parts. A poorly cast Evan Johnson, who is too old to convincingly play a boy of 13, attempts to compensate by irritatingly emphasizing Chris' wide-eyed innocence.

All nine of these characters engage in a series of uncomfortable and graphic sex scenes that drag on stubbornly beyond the point of ungainliness. The crudely depicted encounters are featured prominently throughout the production, which appears at the Acorn through Dec. 17.

And while the onstage imagery leaves nothing to the imagination, the creative significance of these scenes, which occupy such a large part of Bradshaw's play, remains obscured.


Online: http://www.theatrerow.org/theacorn.htm

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