Set in a bohemian loft on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Lanford Wilson’s Burn This is a penetrating exploration of four violently opposing characters who are scrambling to regain control over their lives. Throughout the play, the characters question how they will forge their commitments to art and to love.
Larry, a world-weary but funny young advertising executive, and Anna, a lithe dancer-turned-choreographer, are mourning the accidental death of their roommate and artistic partner, Robbie. They are comforted by Anna’s long-time boyfriend, Burton, himself a successful but unfulfilled screenwriter. Their lives are suddenly turned upside down by the unexpected arrival of the turbulent and dangerous Pale, Robbie’s older brother. It is Pale’s presence – and the tension it generates – that forces each character to reexamine their lives and, for Anna, decide whether a passion that opens up art, creativity, and terrible turbulence is a tenable place to live.
No one is safe from Pale’s corrosive verbal attacks as he rages against New York City and the pretensions of urban loft-dwellers. A restaurateur with undisguised contempt for the art world, Pale cannot reconcile himself to his brother’s homosexuality or success as a dancer. And though Pale and Anna argue violently about Robbie’s lifestyle, a sense of mutual loss drives them toward an unexpected intimacy. Their desperation ignites a charged cycle of desire and regret that haunts Anna as she begins to establish herself in New York’s cutthroat dance scene.