Lanford Wilson's unsentimental romance, in this exhilaratingly moving production, explores how the sudden death of a dear friend disrupts a small circle of young and single Manhattan professionals: Anna, a promising choreographer; Burton, a successful screenwriter who is her casual boyfriend; and a gay friend, Larry, cynical about his advertising career and everything else, who shares her New York City loft. When Robbie, Anna's dance colleague and third inhabitant of the loft, dies in a boating accident, the delicate balances and valences of the surviving trio's paradoxically warm yet standoffish relationship begin to unravel. Change is precipitated further by the alarming entrance of Pale, Robbie's handsome but appallingly bereaved brother, whose unexpected arrival—sloshed, coked, jabbering like a lunatic, and reeling between suavity and depravity—simultaneously repels and attracts Anna. The drama proves to be a complicated study (not to put it too technically) of the hyper-Newtonian interpersonal psycho-physics of emotional gravity and anti-gravity, as Anna—assisted by the baleful but undeluded queer eye of Larry—comes to recognize the hitherto concealed shallowness and unsuspected violence of her once-a-month lover, Burton, and the essential gentleness behind the initially demented impression made by Pale.
Directed with grand emotional verve and detail by Kristianne Kurner, the quartet of actors clicks beautifully. Jeffrey Jones gives an astonishing performance of Pale's doped and drunken opening great tirade, capering while he rants, as nimbly as if he shared dancing chromosomes with his dead brother. Jessica John makes a grave, graceful, intense Anna, gorgeous in Shelly Williams' succession of sleek costumes for her. Manny Fernandez conveys Burton's superficial sparkle. And although it might be possible to portray the character of Larry with a more subdued realism, one would not want to sacrifice a jot of the piquancy with which the arch and hilarious timing that David McBean bestows upon role spices the whole production. Send this boy to camp!
Sean Murray's scenic design, with a wintery Manhattan glimpsed through condensation on the loft's factory windows, is lighted in beautifully subtle hues and shadowings by Eric Lotze, with Kenny Lewis' sound design of blended music and city sounds contributing greatly to the ambiance.
"Burn This," presented by Cygnet Theatre Company at Cygnet Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd., Suite N., San Diego. Thu.-Sat. 8 pm, Sun. 2 & 7 pm Jan. 15-Feb. 13. $16-$26. (619) 337-1525, ext. 3.