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Burn This, Lanford Wilson’s 1987 steamy play, is back on Broadway. And while it’s only in previews, it’s already one of the Great White Way’s most buzzed-about shows, selling out every show so far. What’s the commotion? The Knick team went to find out.
Before we see them on the big screen together in Star Wars: Episode IX, audiences can watch them onstage. And that possibility is what seems to be driving audiences to the Hudson Theatre. Seductive promotional photos fuel the flames as well.
In the play, there’s lots of chemistry between the two. Russell plays Anna, a New York City dancer whose roommate, renowned dancer and close friend Robbie, has just died after a boating incident with his boyfriend. Driver plays Pale, Robbie’s hyperactive older brother who, over the month after the funeral, arrives at Anna’s downtown apartment to pick up Robbie’s belongings. The two of them are both still grieving, and things move on from there. “It’s a weird love story. It’s a good one,” Russell recently told the New York Times.
Driver’s Pale is a no-filter, no-nonsense, cocaine-snorting restaurant manager with a lot on his mind. He’s also hilarious, and a total foil to Russell’s Anna, a serious, considered woman trying to find her own voice. The two of them together are comedic gold, while also hashing out their muddled feelings of loss. The laughs come even more when the other two characters are on stage: Burton (played by Tony-nominated David Furr), Anna’s longtime boyfriend who’s a born-wealthy screenwriter, and Larry (played by Tony- and Grammy-nominated Brandon Uranowitz), Anna and Robbie’s third roommate, who’s an outspoken gay ad-man. Though the show examines serious topics, the quirky foursome makes the audience laugh throughout both acts.
There’s one set: a soaring, mostly empty loft near the river in lower Manhattan. Devoid of furniture, audiences can all but picture Robbie and Anna twirling about together. There’s plenty of space for his memory. The simple staging and small cast of four make for heightened emotions.
Yes, the show takes place in 1987. And yes, the costumes are pure ’80s—Anna’s New Year’s Eve gown is a highlight. But the show’s context could be anytime, and the show itself feels timeless. Anna’s conflicted feelings about her relationship with Burton, Larry’s frustrations with the advertising world, and Pale’s struggles to accept his brother’s sexuality are all deeply affecting, regardless of time setting.
Burn This is an intense drama, dotted with laugh-out-loud moments and imbued with an undercurrent of serious romantic tension. Throw in a star-studded cast and you have yourself a bankable Broadway success. The show opens April 16.
Head over to The Knick, just a few blocks away, for rooftop drinks atop Times Square at St. Cloud.
Looking for the right show to see? Let The Knick be your guide. Check out our reviews of some of Broadways biggest current hits, like Hamilton, Frozen, Come from Away, Once on This Island, Mean Girls, and more.