When I consider Asylum Theater’s production of Burn This, first and foremost in my mind are the stinging moments when the sassy roommate character, Larry (Michael J. Teufel), flounced onstage like gay men in the ’90s were expected to flounce, and the audience exploded with laughter. Those laughs hit me like needles and trapped me in a mire of disbelief—are we still doing this? I’m still stewing, and wondering if Asylum’s production can be responsible for the reactions of their audience to a 1987 work by Lanford Wilson, a gay playwright.
This particular Wilson play was revived this past spring in New York with a cast that included Hollywood’s “most intense guy” right now, Adam Driver, as Pale—the bereaved, homophobic older brother of Larry’s former roommate, Robbie. It’s easy to picture Driver being attracted to a role that would allow him to rocket between coked-up visions of grandeur and gut-wrenching sorrow. This too is true of the Asylum production’s Pale (Heath Koerschgen), who embodies the character wonderfully—in that I’m going to be terrified of Pale for the rest of my life.
Initially, Burn This appears to be a story of mourning (everyone’s mourning Robbie), but I would argue the actual point is the fury and frightening force that Koerschgen must unearth for his role. Is this a story, an exercise, or a pedestal for male rage? In the face of it, all the other characters recede. That’s unfortunate, because I‘ve liked the actors playing Anna (Briana Ratterman) and Burton (Jason Maniccia) in other projects. Pale’s dominance could also be a commentary on how we all step lightly around rage-filled men and why it’s so damn advantageous for them to behave this way.