My Variety Review: 'Burn This' With Adam Driver, Keri Russell
The ache for an absent artist permeates Lanford Wilson’s “Burn This,” now receiving a finely-tuned Broadway revival that features incendiary performances by Adam Driverand Keri Russell, playing two lost souls in a powerful and passionate dance of denial.
AIDS is never mentioned in this 1987 play, yet the epidemic and the profound grief that it caused is deeply embedded in its DNA. The pain of loss and the need for connection — even between unlikely lovers — is at the heart of this odd but appealing play, part shiva and part romcom.
Though the cause of death for the play’s brilliant dancer Robbie is a freak boating accident, the mourning for bright lives taken prematurely resonates strongly with the epidemic that gripped New York in the era the play was written. The effect Robbie’s death (and the death of his lover Dom) has on Anna (Russell), his roommate and dance partner, and on Robbie’s older, working-class brother Jimmy, nicknamed Pale (Driver) — who bears a striking resemblance to his sibling – cuts to their cores, immobilizing their actions and numbing their hearts. She’s lost her muse and he’s lost his way.
Also affected by the deaths are Anna and Robbie’s gay roomate, Larry (Brandon Uranowitz), a former dancer who now works unhappily as a graphic designer in an ad agency, and Anna’s lover, Burton (David Furr), a successful sci-fi screenwriter who yearns to write something more meaningful. Robbie’s death has shaken all of them.
At the play’s start, Anna has hit an emotional and creative wall, still stunned by the recent funeral, where it became clear that Robbie’s estranged family didn’t know — or want to know — the details of his personal or professional lives.
Enter Pale, ostensibly on a mission to retrieve Robbie’s few possessions.