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By Sheila Barth – Theater Blogger (2/24/11)
It’s unfortunate that the night I attended Zero Point Theater’s two-act, two-hour production of Lanford Wilson’s, “Burn This,” Sean Stanco, who portrays the lead role of Pale, was suddenly called away for a family emergency, causing two members of the cast to suddenly shift roles.
In a sense, not seeing Stanco’s performance on Thursday was a good thing, because it gave the other cast members and director Emil Kreymer the opportunity to prove their mettle. Although the cast changes were announced before the show, the production went on without flaws, oblivious of the behind-the-scenes drama.
Stanco was expected to be out only Thursday night (the play ends Saturday, Feb. 26), so Stephen Sacchetti, who usually plays Burton, filled in laudibly, while Kreymer pinch-hitted for Sachetti.
Co-stars Laura Loy in the sole female role of Anna and David DiLillo as Larry also gave command performances.
The contemporary romantic drama, performed at the Arsenal Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre in Watertown, originally opened in Los Angeles in 1987. Zero Point Theater initially performed the play January 20-22 in Watertown then returned February 17-26.
The plot involves a straight woman named Anna, who’s a wannabe dancer-choreographer, but spends her time traveling, teaching and attending classes. When her gay roommate, Robbie, a talented, upcoming dancer, dies suddenly in an accident, Anna attends his wake and funeral, pretending to be his girlfriend, to cover his homosexuality, thus saving his detached family from shame.
Anna and Robbie’s other roommate, Larry, is a gay, slightly older advertising representative with a wry outlook on life, whom DiLillo delightfully captures.
Although Anna has a boyfriend, Burton, who’s a rich, successful writer, it’s hinted that she perhaps loved Robbie. A month later, when Robbie’s older brother, Jim, (a.k.a. Pale), storms into her apartment, boozy and high on drugs, in the middle of the night to pick up Robbie’s belongings, the four characters‘ lives take an unexpected turn.
Although Pale is 10 years older than Robbie, married with two children, Anna is touched by his resemblance to Robbie, his neediness,anguish, and steamy sexuality.
During his rages, Pale tells Anna he got married at age 18, had two children, has worked long, hard hours perpetually as a restaurant manager in Montclair, NJ, and never felt love or gave in to his feelings. Anna, who wears her heart on her sleeve, wants desperately to get out of her rut and prove her ability to choreograph and perform. Although she likes Burton and admires his success as a screenwriter, she struggles to fulfill her own goals and suppress her feelings for Pale.
There are several powerful scenes that demand intense energy from the actors. While DiLillo maintains Larry’s complacency and sense of humor, he’s tuned into the interrelationship, pain and needs of the other characters, acting as a stabilizer and moderator, while injecting jabs of humor.
Wilson’s play is an insightful look into creative and gay worlds in the 1980s, which Zero Point Theater captures admirably.