Photo by Don Kellogg

Monday, December 12, 2011


Everything about Burning, Thomas Bradshaw's new play, is less like a flaming tinderbox and much more like the wet smoldering ashes of a rained out campfire.  The painful 3 hours in the theater included just about every issue and topic that might be featured individually in a well written avant-garde show downtown - all thrown in with reckless abandon aimed at provocation with the result being disgust.   Decide for yourself.

This play includes 3 audacious and intertwined stories.  A gay 15 year-old in California who's mother, the crackhead, overdoses and dies after which he runs away to NYC to be an actor and ends up living with an older gay couple as their houseboy and sex-toy.  He sleeps with a friend of theirs who has AIDS, runs away to Cologne, Germany for 3 years and watches his new boyfriend die.  In another story we get two grown children of Nazi parents who have died - the daughter inexplicably confined to a wheelchair.  They carry on the Aryan Nation tradition and beliefs of their parents.  The skinhead brother has to care for his sister and ultimately has to resort to pleasure her sexually in the bathtub with his fingers.  In the third story we have a mixed race couple.  The black man is an artist who paints provocative works about race and doesn't let anyone know he is black before they meet him.  He travels to Germany to the gallery where the Nazi guy works.  The Nazi guy doesn't know he's black, learns the truth upon meeting him and ultimately ends up murdering him in a dark movie theater when the black guy is with a prostitute with whom he has fallen in love - she's black and he's never been with a black woman because when he was 5 his older sister would use him as a decoy when having sex with her many boyfriends - and of course he saw her and ever since was repulsed by black women.  Then there's a time warp effect where the young guy in the first story i mentioned grows up and meets the cousin of the black guy and here we have homophobia, coming out, unprotected sex on purpose with an HIV positive gay man.

I could go on... and on.... and on.... but I just might get sick to my stomach all over again.  There were some beautiful and talented people on stage - both fully clothed - as well as fully unclothed - and I honestly question if some of the many sex scenes were really simulated... Don't get me wrong - I'm not a prude - quite the opposite actually.  But the intentional over-saturation with issues, naked bodies, orgasms, hairy ass cracks and other sordid details was completely forced and not natural at all.

Some fine acting by the cast which includes Hunter Foster cannot be overlooked or go unmentioned but was completely overpowered by the playwright's hubris and over-blown, throw-in-the-kitchen-sink approach to forcing an avant-garde feeling on us - - failing miserably every step of the way.