Burn This, Brainchoppers Productions, at Link’s Hall. Lanford Wilson’s frequently produced play is a theatrical litmus test. A poor cast ensures that Wilson’s story about a frustrated choreographer, Anna, who falls for Pale, the ferociously heterosexual brother of her gay roommate, will seem little better than fodder for a TV pilot. But a top-notch cast, perhaps headed by John Malkovich as the mercurial Pale, may well make Burn This seem one of the more solidly entertaining dramas of the late 80s.
Brainchoppers’ tepid production, directed by Doug Long, lacks the polish and firepower to convince us that the play is anything more than a sporadically inspired, occasionally witty, competently written drama about hopelessly self-involved Manhattanites. Elizabeta Basic is consistently credible as the narcissistic Anna, and she does share some humorous moments with Kipp Moorman as her caustic roommate Larry and some flickers of passion with Ray Kasper as Pale. But these bursts of drama are too often undermined by rote line readings that feel utterly disconnected from the script and a wooden performance by Robert Tobin as Anna’s current boyfriend, Burton.
Without performers charismatic enough to compensate for the irritating self-absorption of the characters, Wilson’s familiar, self-serving observations about overcoming personal difficulties through artistic creation are tiresome. Brainchoppers might have been better off taking the playwright’s portentous title as a piece of sound advice. –Adam Langer