The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review

One man plays are really boring, and we have to do everything we can to prevent the audience from falling asleep. So, I'm thinking about having Jack perform the entire play in the nude. — Noah, a producer, about a play that started of with five actors but was cut down to a solo to save money and to be more of a showcase for the actor whose lover is producing it.
Barrett Doss and Stephen Tyrone Williams
(Photo credit: Monique Carbon)
Thomas Bradshaw certainly didn't have to worry about about having his new play's cast cut down for his move from small downtown theaters to the prestigious New Group's midtown theater. Unlike Donald (Adam Trese), the above quoted playwright in the world premiere of Burning, Bradshaw has not been talked into downsizing his cast of characters to showcase any one actor or cut costs. There are thirteen actors on the Acorn Theater's stage, with only one actor (Jeff Biehl) playing multiple roles. Simon (Danny Mastrogiorgio), Bradshaw's actor character on the other hand will be doing the play-wthin Burning solo.

Despite Burning's large cast making it unnecessary to keep solo show weary audiences awake with Nature's Own costuming, not to mention Scott Elliott's handsome and fluidly directed production, Bradshaw hasn't ditched his fictional producer's idea of nudity as an attention-holding device. In fact, at one point or another two thirds of the actors get naked — and I don't mean for a quick flash-by glimpse. Not only that, the nude scenes cover just about every type of sexual congress imaginable. This probably won't shock theater goers who have followed Bradshaw's downtown career and applauded him as a fearless provocateur, but it's not likely to gain him a large new fan base among those who prefer a play that rolls its plot and themes to a satisfying climax in preference to watching an excess of couplings capped by moaning and groaning orgasms.

To be fair to Mr. Bradshaw, Burning is not without merit. Plays and films in which intersecting story lines bring seemingly unconnected characters together can be fun and absorbing to watch. The film Crash is a well known and well received case in point. Burning too has its moments, thanks to some amusing dialogue, Scott Elliott's fluid direction, Peter Kaczorowski's apt lighting of Derek McLane's scenery and Wendall K. Harrington's projections.

The script adeptly uses a number of funerals as a connecting thread that gathers together family members to collect urns holding parents' and lovers remains and deliver eulogies — and it does so over a decade spanning period, from 1983 to 2011. The play is structured around three main threads.

The 1980s segment spans three years, from 1983 and 1986. It focuses on a theatrical couple, Jack, an actor (Andrew Garman), Simon (Danny Mastrogiorgio), a producer. Jack and Simon's scenes cover their professional life and friends and how they become Uncle Jack and Dad to Chris, an ambitious but untalented aspiring actor who's also gay (Evan Johnson as the young Chris during the 1980s segments, and Hunter Foster as the older Chris in 2011).

The 2011 stories involve Peter (Stephen Tyrone Williams), a painter whose trip to Germany for an exhibit results in life changing consequences of his not revealing his racial identity to the press and his marriage to a white woman. Another segment with close connections to Peter's story involves Michael (Drew Hildebrand) a frustrated Neo-Nazi and Katrin (Reyna de Courcy) and his crippled sister who also have loved ones to mourn. Their story, besides including one of the most distasteful sex scenes also tries to milk constipation and flatulence for humor.

The way all these characters are interconnected is not always totally believable, but it's easy enough to follow. What's less easy to comprehend is just what lasting, fresh insights Mr. Bradshaw thinks he is leaving us with. What the press materials describe as "searing and graphic tales of self-invention and sexual identity" and an attack on "the pretenses of the worlds of art and theater" too often comes off too self-consciously ironic and in your face. The digs at the theater are funny but not exactly brand new. An amusing scene when Peter, the painter, his wife Josephine (Larisa Polonsky) and cousin Franklin (Vladimir Versailles) prepare for a funeral actually adds enother bit of societal finger pointing but then Jessica Mitford did that back in 1963 with her book The American Way of Death., which was published in 1963. I suppose if you spend a lot of time mulling over the playwright's intent, you may even find a larger theme pertaining to the inter-racial connectons in all these less than persuasive plot lines.

The actors do their best whether dressed or in flagrante delicto. One can't help wondering what attracted Hunter Foster, an actor with a number of high profile Broadway credits under his belt, to a bare-your-butt ensemble role like this. At any rate, neither Hunter or any of the other actors caught up in this overabundance of explicit and endlessly drawn out sex scenes, can make the experience of watching them titillating. (At the performance I attended, quite a few people, mostly young women, obviously found these scenes laugh out loud funny).

Venus in Fur which opened on Broadway just a week before Burning, creates more provocative sexual sizzle In just 95 minutes with just two actors. No nudity. No actual sexual intercourse. A sex scene in another recently opened show, the musical The Blue Flower has the fully clothed participants finish things off totally of the viewers' range but which is nevertheless truly sensual. If Bradshaw had applied the less-is-more maxim to his carnal illustratons, or Mr. Elliott had not allowed them to be so interminably (and, truth be known, boringly) drawn out, Burning might have caused, at least this viewer, not to be burning for a more quickly arrived at ending.

Other Bradshaw plays reviewed at Curtainup:
The Bereaved-2009
Dawn -2008
New York Living one of 6 short plays in The Great Recession-2009

Written by Thomas Bradshaw
Directed by Scott Elliott
Cast: Jeff Biehl (Paul, Heinz, Priest, Funeral Director), Reyna de Courcy (Katrin), Barrett Doss (Gretchen), Hunter Foster (Older Chris), Andrew Garman (Jack), Drew Hildebrand (Michael), Evan Johnson (Chris), Danny Mastrogiorgio (Simon), Andrew Polk (Noah), Larisa Polonsky (Josephine), Adam Trese (Donald), Vladimir Versailles (Franklin), Stephen Tyrone Williams (Peter)
Set Design: Derek McLane
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Costume Design: Clint Ramos
Sound Design: Bart Fasbender
Video Design: Wendall Harrington
Dialect Coach: Doug Paulson
Stage Manager: Valerie A. Peterson
Running Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one intermission
The New Group at the Acorn Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street
From 10/26/11; opening ;11/14/11; closing 12/14/11
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at November 9th press Performance.
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Burning
  • I disagree with the review of Burning
  • The review made me eager to see Burning
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

Visit Curtainup's Blog Annex
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Anything Goes Cast Recording Anything Goes Cast Recording
Our review of the show

Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows-the complete set

You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company


©Copyright 2011, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from