Burn This

Lanford Wilson's 1987 play

Bare Bones' production of Lanford Wilson's 1987 play doesn't spark until after the first scene, and then it really catches fire -- thanks to the heated, passionate chemistry between Gwen Lindsey (as dancer/choreographer Anna) and Matthew Chavez (as Pale). They're mismatched lovers thrown together by the death of Robbie, the roommate of Anna and Larry (Patrick Mouton) and Pale's estranged brother. The problem with the affair, besides the fact that Pale snorts coke, drinks heavily, and carries a gun, is that Anna already is seeing rich-boy screenwriter Burton (Paul Lancour). The love triangle is a quick study in spatial relationships. Burton eschews writing about "urban microcosms," more fascinated with the question of what sustains people in vast, underpopulated Canada, while Anna nonchalantly avoids his hints of marriage. Anna and Pale collide and separate dangerously and painfully ("I'm not going to be prey to something I don't want," Anna says, trying to break it off). She's simultaneously afraid of and attracted to Pale: He's a tornado of manic energy, bursting into her apartment, raging about the "baby-shit green Trans Am" that stole his parking spot ("Son of a bitch thinks he owns this fuckin' space"). But his tirades end on heart-rending notes, and Chavez expertly navigates these emotional storms. He whirls across the stage one minute then falls into Anna's arms the next. Lindsey, as an independent-yet-confused Anna, matches Chavez's skill, and the two feed off each other's energy. Their intense scenes get broken up by the dramatically gay Larry, whose comedy has a sarcastic edge. Mouton gets a slow start in this role (the night I attended he didn't seem warmed up for the first scene), but gains momentum for some nicely executed moments. ("Where did you come from? Ravage me like I've never been ravaged before," he exclaims extravagantly, in answer to Pale's "Who are you?") Lancour excels at subtly portraying Burton's inner turmoil. He, like the others, struggles with the risk of exposing true feelings. -- Karen McKevitt


Through Aug. 12

Tickets are $15


Next Stage, 1620 Gough (at Bush), S.F.

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