Actor Mark Diaco spent ten years trying to secure the rights to Lanford Wilson’s 1987 play Burn This. You can see why. This is theatre that feels good to perform: full of drama, wrenched love, long monologues, and floods of tears. The characters are meaty, the dialogue turbulent, dizzying, and technically complex. These are show-piece roles. They exist, though, in a script whose latent gender politics are at risk of overshadowing the story.
In a 1980s New York warehouse, dancer and aspiring choreographer Anna (Jessica Clarke) and her gay roommate Larry (Dushan Philips) are reeling from the death of their friend and roommate Robbie, killed in a boating accident with his boyfriend. Anna is enraged and devastated. Her rich screenwriter boyfriend, Burton (Jacob Collins Levy) is little comfort. When an almighty knocking disrupts her sleep at 5 am, Anna opens the door to Pale (Mark Diaco), Robbie’s older brother. He is drunk, raving, coked to the eyeballs. Repulsed and attracted in equal measure, Anna is pulled inexorably towards Pale, whose destructive grief echoes her own pain.