On Friday, September 28, 2007 at 8:00pm, I attended the opening theatrical performance of Burn This at Santa Monica College’s Studio Stage. Directed by Aric Martin, Burn This is a ferocious comedy about the lives of four friends and how they cope with the tragic death of their friend and roommate, Robbie “the dancer.”
The scene takes place in a Manhattan Loft Apartment in New York City where Robbie (the deceased) used to live with his two roommates, Anna and Larry. The other two characters in the cast play visitors to the scene: Pale—the brother of the deceased, and Burton—a wealthy friend who seems to know something about producing performances for Anna and her deceased dance partner, Robbie.
The two and a half hour play is spent dealing with dramatics, emotions, problems, and developments of their relationships as they all begin to learn to live without (the third roommate) Robbie. The dialog begins to pass over as an episode from Seinfeld with provocative and obscene language allowed.
When Pale’s dramatic and emotional character comes into the scene, he enters the play by standing hidden in the dark pounding and screaming behind the door on the set. While we were all sitting in the dark waiting for Anna, played by Liz Federico, to turn on the lights—Pale, played by Brian Ramian, had come over in the middle of the night and waking Anna up—and he started yelling, “Annie!” so loudly that I swear to God I almost got up to see what he wanted because I thought it was Doug (Forsythe, the Technical Director) calling for, “Andi!”
There were many aspects of this play that I really enjoyed. First and foremost, the acting was excellent and not once did any of the actors flub any of their lines. I was very impressed by this considering the small cast and great length of the play.
Secondly, I really enjoyed the music and sound effects. Although there was no mention of, or credit given to, individual songs in the program, the selection of music was beautiful and appropriate ranging from Frank Sinatra to Bjork. Audience members really took a liking to the popular choices in music as I noticed they were dancing and singing along. I also very much enjoyed the excellent coordination of sound to the dialog and to the actors movements. At one point, when Pale opened the windows, the city noise could be heard as if it was really “city noise” happening in the streets of New York. This added a very cool effect and made the play a lot more realistic. The only thing I didn’t like about the music was at the beginning, while we were waiting for the play to start, they had “You make me feel so young” on loop mode, so we heard that one song about 10 times, over and over again, while we waited for the show to start.
Thirdly, the lighting was totally awesome and beautiful. The only problem I saw with any of the lighting throughout the entire play was during the first morning when Pale and Anna woke up together. We knew it was morning because of the very cool and great new gobos brought in from up above. However, it was difficult for the audience to recognize this transition from night to morning light because at this time—the light through the windows in the background (where the ladder/escalator was) did not change at all. This made it a bit confusing, but it helped the scene to have gobos from straight above with brighter light. From the audience, it looked a little strange because the background lighting did not change from night until morning. (It stayed dark on the back wall throughout the transition.)
Finally, I would like to add that in watching this awesome production, it was really neat to see how the lighting changed the appearance of the colors on the set of the props we painted. Mixed with the gold lighting, it made the grey look more appealable and it was cool to quietly think to myself, “Hey! We painted those tables! They look great!” Beautiful job on the sets, if I do say so myself.