"Burn This," Lanford Wilson's intense comedy-drama packed with some hilarious moments, is on stage at the Fells Point Corner Theatre weekends through Nov. 25.
This production is first-rate, outstanding theatrical entertainment. Directed with style and panache by Steve Goldklang, the four-character play deals with New York urban sophisticates embroiled in an odd love triangle. The dialogue is crisp and slick, funny, often moving and never boring.
In his way, Wilson has written an old-fashioned movie romance updated to the contemporary scene.
Rob, a promising, gay, young dancer, and his lover have been killed in an accident. Rob's brother, Pale, a wild, pragmatic man who radiates an aura of simmering danger, bursts into the Manhattan loft apartment of his dead brother's two roommates in the middle of the night.
The roommates are Anna, a sensitive female dancer going through some kind of personal angst, and Larry, a gay advertising executive who observes life with an amusingly jaundiced eye.
Pale, the workaholic manager of a small restaurant in New Jersey, is a man in great torment trying to come to grips with Rob's death.
His raw, animalistic nature (every other word is an expletive) appeals to Anna (against her better judgment). Soon the two, irresistibly drawn like magnets to each other, end up in a wild love affair.
This unorthodox relationship goes on for a while, complicated by the presence of Anna's steady boyfriend, a wealthy, elitist screen writer whose marvelously artistic scripts are constantly butchered by Hollywood movie moguls (he thinks). He and Pale come to violent blows over the girl in an all too realistic fight scene.
Which man will Anna choose is the crux of the story. Will she play it safe or burn her bridges behind her? Anna's journey to this point is all the fun.
As the tough-talking, manic but painfully honest Pale, Tony Colavito gives an astonishingly unforgettable performance, showing us the character's humorous and rough exterior but also his great vulnerability and suppressed artistic nature.
Tom Nolte is a riot in his delicately balanced interpretation of the jaded ad executive, and Rick Richardson often charms as the high-born, stuffy screen writer.
Amy E. Wieczorek as Anna juggles her grief for her dead roommate and her turbulent desire for his brother fairly well. But the actress seems too consistently restrained in a role that swings crazily from the conventional to the exciting liberation of unpredictable love.
Another outstanding theater event is UMBC director Alan Kreizenbeck's fascinating, surrealistic four-ring circus interpretation of Jean-Paul Sartre's one-act play, "No Exit," continuing tonight through Saturday in the UMBC Theater.
The work by the existentialist philosopher dwells on the loose moral values of three people who harbor dark secrets, Estelle, Inez and Garcin. They are escorted by a mysterious valet to a drawing room in hell where they soon discover hell is each other.
Kreizenbeck and scenic designer Richard Montgomery have produced four identical inferno sets in which four separate casts (with four different interpretations) execute the play simultaneously at different levels. The audience is seated on the stage and members are encouraged to move around and observe all the performances.
The effect is weirdly spooky, grotesque and powerfully gripping. Kreizenbeck well makes his point that hell is endlessly continuous and repetitious (and we are the makers of our own particular hells).
The performances (one is silent) are mostly compelling. Exceptional acting jobs: Ron Bopst's Garcin and Dolores McBride's exquisite, childlike Estelle. Others in the fine casts: Rick Millman, Tony Bishop, Matt Sherman, Todd Tyler, Judy DeDeyn, Eileen Keenan, Dianne Signiski, Laurie Martin, Nguyen Tucker, Bonnie Webster. (Craig J. Orefice as the lesbian Inez does not work, however. Orefice's performance comes off in disturbing transvestite fashion).
The wonderfully decadent costumes are by Elena Zlotescu.