Burn This

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Lanford Wilson (b. 1937)

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A: Lanford Wilson Pf: 1987, Los Angeles Pb: 1987 G: Romantic com. in 2 acts S: Manhattan apartment, 1980s C: 3m, 1fAnna, a modern dancer and would-be choreographer, is devastated by the drowning of her gay flatmate Robbie, also a dancer. She is consoled by her boyfriend Burton, a successful screenwriter, and by her other flatmate Larry, a copywriter for advertisements. Pale, Robbie's older brother, comes to the apartment to collect his possessions and is cruelly insensitive towards Anna. Her suspicion that Pale's brash exterior merely hides his own grieving is confirmed when he breaks down in angry tears. Responding to ‘the bird-with-the-broken-wing syndrome’, she takes him to bed, but he is gone by the morning. Several months later, on New Year's Eve, Pale reappears drunk. Burton tries to throw him out, but Anna once again gives herself to Pale. She tries to overcome her passion for him by sending him away and by throwing herself into work, choreographing a new dance. Without Anna's knowledge, Larry invites Pale to the first showing of Anna's work. By means of Larry's note, which includes the question ‘Why should love always be tragic?’ and the instructions ‘Burn this’, Pale is also induced into meeting Anna alone in her apartment. At first reluctant to commit themselves, they confess their love for each other and burn the note, as instructed.

A: Lanford Wilson Pf: 1987, Los Angeles Pb: 1987 G: Romantic com. in 2 acts S: Manhattan apartment, 1980s C: 3m, 1f

Conventionally, the young lovers of comedy are blocked by some outside force, frequently an inflexible older figure, but here the blocking is created entirely by the lovers themselves. Wilson deftly combines contemporary notions of liberation and its accompanying fear of submitting to commitment with the irresistible fact of a ‘burning’ passion, ‘a juggernaut that knocks everything down in front of it’.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights) — Theatre.

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