|Burn This, Nov. - Dec. 2004|
By Lanford Wilson ; Directed by Susan Fenichell ; Set by James Noone ; Costumes by Candice Donnelly ; Lighting by Mary Louise Geiger ; Sound by Drew Levy.
With Anne Torsiglieri as Anna ; Brian Hutchison as Burton ; Nat DeWolf as Larry ; Michael T. Weiss as Pale.
Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Boston University Theatre, November 12 – December 12‚ 2004.
Excerpts from a really nice review from the "Boston Globe":
In the search for passion, this 'Burn' makes its mark
By Ed Siegel, Globe Staff - November 19, 2004
If the Huntington Theatre Company folks wanted to raise some easy money, they'd start making copies of Michael T. Weiss's TV series "The Pretender" and sell them in the lobby. Given how people at the opening-night audience were swooning over Weiss, they would probably pay any price for the opportunity to take Weiss home with them, even if only on DVD.
And for good reason. Weiss takes over the Huntington stage to such a degree in Lanford Wilson's "Burn This" that any time he is not inside the Manhattan loft, you keep waiting for him to burst through to make another pass at Anna, a seemingly self-sufficient dancer. And as unlikely a romantic hero as his loutish character Pale may be, it's more than likely you'll be rooting for him not to leave by play's end. ...
Weiss's character is definitely not safe, though one suspects he's less dangerous than John Malkovich's version in the original production. You can see a lot of Pacino in Weiss's dismissiveness of anything arty as unmanly. And there's a bit of De Niro in his macho yet vulnerable way of not knowing whether to strike out or reach out. ...
After a while, though, it becomes more enjoyable to stop wondering about Weiss's influences and to just enjoy his first-rate acting. ...
This is live theater, though, and the sparks that fly between Weiss and Torsiglieri are not easily replicated on film. You keep rooting for these characters to go for the gold. If Wilson's play only merits a silver, that's not too bad, either.
Ed Siegel can be reached at email@example.com
Excerpts from "OnStage Boston":
Embers vs. Flames
By R. J. Donovan, 11/20/04
"Burn This", at the Huntington through December 12, is Lanford Wilson's drama about a dancer’s tragic death and the turmoil it inflicts on friends and family. ...
Michael Weiss, who has the perfect look and sound for the role of the erotic, overbearing Pale, doesn't strut as much as shoot around frenetically. He's dangerous, enraged and in everyone's face. Yet despite the macho braggadocio, there's a muddled, confused vulnerability that eventually surfaces.
Pale is a study in contrasts. He's the tough guy with a gun, but he's so detached, he loses it. He's a homophobic bully, yet his hands fly and flutter when he speaks. He's repulsed at having seen a picture of his brother's same-sex partner flaunted in a magazine, yet he nonchalantly dons a woman's lavender robe as he fusses in the kitchen making a pot of tea (actually scalding the pot first). ...
From "Cape Cod Times":
A fire fueled by powerful emotions
By Debbie Forman, Staff writer, November 21, 2004
... Michael T. Weiss is likely to blow you away with his powerful portrayal of Pale. He wildly takes over the stage in the first act, bellowing his anger and disappointment. He seems a selfish bully; you don't like him and wonder what Anna sees in him. But in the second act, the gentleness and yearning he brings to the role win you over. It is a multifaceted performance of great depth. ...
From the "Boston Globe":
Burn, baby, burn
By Jim Sullivan, Globe Staff - November 24, 2004
Go! saw the fabulously Brando-esque Michael T. Weiss playing Pale (a.k.a Jimmy) in Lanford Wilson's "Burn This" at the Huntington Theatre last week and immediately thought: This is our new role model! Drunk, disheveled (yet stylish), overheated, packin' heat, violent, unwittingly funny, profane (in an Al Pacino in "Scarface" kind of way), cynically romantic, exploitative, arrogant, sardonic. Then Go!'s companion gently suggested that while she, too, loved the character and Weiss's portrayal, he was not a role model. Sometimes we get confused that way. It happened when we heard Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer," too, way back when. But, lordy, this is a good 'un -- dark and volatile and funny as all get-out.
Excerpts from the "Boston Phoenix", Issue Date: November 26 - December 2, 2004:
Fire and art - Michael T. Weiss sparks Burn This
By Carolyn Clay
By Lanford Wilson. Directed by Susan Fenichell. Set by James Noone. Costumes by Candice Donnelly. Lighting by Mary Louise Geiger. Sound by Drew Levy. With Anne Torsiglieri, Brian Hutchison, Nat DeWolf, and Michael T. Weiss. Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Boston University Theatre through December 12. ...
And at the Huntington Theatre Company, it’s built on a fire-licked performance by Michael T. Weiss, who as Pale injects a heavy dose of Al Pacino into the showy role originally essayed on Broadway by John Malkovich. A 2002 Signature Theatre Company revival that featured Edward Norton and Catherine Keener among its quartet of actors is said to have gone for soul and a more balanced ensemble. The Huntington staging, though generally well acted, gives Weiss’s electrifying Pale free rein. ...
But as the Bard says, some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Here the thrusting comes in the form of the expertly controlled, quicksilver chaos of Michael T. Weiss.
From "The Standard-Times", Page C18, November 25, 2004:
Huntington's 'Burn This' offers lots of fireworks
By David Brooks Andrews, Standard-Times correspondent
... Mr. Weiss plays Pale as a lit fuse attached to a stick of dynamite with the accelerant being cocaine, alcohol, a job as restaurant manager that's eating him up, and a 17-year marriage that's become little more than a dried husk. Mr. Weiss paces and takes over the set as if he'd been coached by Al Pacino. ...
The performances are often exciting; just don't ask too much of the play.
From "Boston Man":
"Burn This" a hot Huntington hit, now - December 12
By Frank Avruch - Boston's man about town:
... The drama really erupts when actor Michael T. Weiss, in the pivotal role of Pale, bursts onto the stage midway into the first act and with his rat-a-tat delivery and sexual magnetism we know we're in for some steamy moments. This could be the breakthrough role for Mr. Weiss, who has already built a strong fan base with his role in TV's "The Pretender". ...
Review in "The Theater Mirror"
By Carl A. Rossi
Lanford Wilson's "Burn This", now playing at the Huntington, is a lady-and-the-tramp love story between Anna, a New York dancer/choreographer, and Pale, the mysterious older brother of one of her roommates, now dead along with his partner in a freak boating accident. Anna, described by her surviving roommate Larry as having led a protected life (left unexplained), is attracted/repelled by the emotionally flammable Pale which in turn leaves her semi-steady Burton out in the cold. (The play's title comes from Burton, a rich-boy screenwriter: "Make it personal, tell the truth, and then write "Burn this" on it." --- advice that Larry puts to matchmaking use.) "Burn This" plays like a well-written first draft which accounts for its jazzy, improvisational feel but until (and even after) Pale arrives well into Act One to shake up things audiences might wonder where all the quirky talk, talk, talk is leading to. Having seen the intimate Devanaughn Theatre production at the Piano Factory, last April, I wished Anna and Pale well; after attending the arm's-length evening at the Huntington, I now wonder about their future together as they are so apple-and-orange --- still, if Pale can divorce his wife, overcome his homophobia, give up drugs and alcohol, ditch the handgun, work on that ulcer and stop being so possessive, he and Anna just might have a chance (the play was written in pre-Giuliani New York, before gentrification and a citywide clean-up began, plus Anna's making it with a near-total stranger must have seemed doubly exciting with the AIDS epidemic breaking out, nationwide; set in today's present, BURN THIS now seems otherworldly). And Mr. Wilson lingers over the Larry-Burton relationship with the former mock-lusting after the latter who is not uncomfortable at such adulation and who openly admits to having once been fellated in a snowy doorway but Mr. Wilson chooses to keep Larry in safe, non-threatening mode, looking on and cracking à la Eve Arden and as any child will tell you, the Best Friend never gets laid in these stories.
Susan Fenichell's direction is, for the most part, invisible --- that is a compliment --- though now and then the actors wander about just to show how three-dimensional James Noone's vast, cold setting really is; one movement just doesn't make sense: upon his entrance, Pale wanders upstairs so he can dominate from above; when he is back on ground level, he asks which room was his late brother's --- Anna indicates the second landing and Pale approaches the stairs in wonder; the very stairs he had just been up only minutes ago. The Anna-Larry relationship is the evening's true love story in its mutual support and affection; Anne Torsiglieri begins the evening shrilly as Anna then calms down but continues to character-paint with a limited palette and Nat DeWolf double and triple underlines as a Larry who is always "on" (I wouldn't want to be around when he burns and crashes); Mara Sidmore (Ms. Torsiglieri's understudy) and Adam Soule made a touching sister-and-brother act for the Devanaughn, in comparison. Burton, as written, is both nice guy and hunk, and Brian Hutchison amiably fills enough of the bill. The role of Pale is a collection of Method tics and twitches which needs some bedrock to tie it all together; Michael T. Weiss is content to do a stand-up turn, instead, giving little sense of a man who is a good guy at heart despite being a walking disaster area nor is there any particular chemistry between him and his Anna. Once I accepted the Huntington evening as a New York-type of production --- the kind of hard, slick entertainment you tend to see on Broadway --- I rather enjoyed it ...
Review from "Variety", Sun., Nov. 28, 2004:
(Boston U. Theater; 890 seats; $69 top)
A Huntington Theater Co. presentation of a play in two acts by Lanford Wilson. Directed by Susan Fenichell. Running time: 2 hours, 25 min., reviewed Nov. 20 by Frank Rizzo
Anna - Anne Torsiglieri
Burton - Brian Hutchison
Larry - Nat DeWolf
Pale - Michael T. Weiss
... The Huntington Theater Co. production, staged by Susan Fenichell, gets one with Michael T. Weiss' dazzling and deft performance.
Weiss, best known as the star of TV's "The Pretender," makes Pale's posturing, machismo and mood swings natural and not just actor-audition bravado. In the role famously originated by John Malkovich (and played in an Off Broadway revival two years ago by Edward Norton), Weiss gives Pale an innate sexiness, humor and sensitivity that make Anna's odd attraction to him -- and later compulsions -- believable.
Weiss is compelling whenever he is onstage, and the stage seems a rather lonely place when he is not. ...
Katrina Elliott, Company Manager of the Huntington Theatre Company was kind enough to answer some of my questions (after the end of the run) regarding the production of Burn This:
Q: You wrote that Mr Weiss was interested in doing this play. How come that he is doing it with the Huntington Theatre Company? And who recommended the other cast members?
A: We have a casting director in NY who makes casting recommendations, and sometimes actors come to us by way of knowing the director, artistic director or assoc artistic director. Both Nat DeWolf and Anne Torsiglieri had done other shows here previously. I don't know as we can take credit for "convincing" Michael to do the show - it was a play he was interested in and he wanted to do some live theatre.
Q: Will you extend the run of the play beyond December 12?
A: No, the run is set. [Yeah, we've noticed that by now.]
Q: Or will you take it on the road thru the US (with the same cast)?
A: No. Occasionally our productions get remounted at other regional theatres or on Broadway, but there are no plans thus far for Burn This.
Q: I've noticed that this play has only four characters. Does this become a hard task for the director, as well as the actors?
A: The cast and director had a great relationship, so I think they enjoyed being a foursome very much. Obviously the fewer characters the more lines for each actor, but they all learned them!
Q: How long was the rehearsal period?
A: 3 Weeks.
Q: How did the preview performances go? I've read some really rave reviews from several newspapers, so even the critics love the production. But how does the general audience react so far?
A: Previews went well, as did the run in generally. It especially picked up speed in terms of audience size after Thanksgiving. People seem to get more in the mood to come see shows in the holiday season.
Hope that helps. Sorry I didn't have more specifics to offer you about the actors' experience of the play and their characters. They did have a good time and a great run.
More reviews of "Burn This", and the full text of these ones can be found in the News from 2004.
For various ads, photos from the production, and scans of the programme click here. [Password = Pretender]