Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Burn This" @ Shakespeare Santa Cruz

"Burn This" is good. I liked Yvonne Woods and everyone else in the play. I think it's a bit like "Friends" if "Friends" took place in a realer world with realer people who felt lonely even while they were barreling toward their dreams and surrounded by people who love them. The characters face issues so real, in fact, that it made me feel kind of empty at the end because it reminded me too much of the sadness and torture of an artist.

I don't mean to say that I disliked the play; I did. But the emptiness in my stomach at the end struck me a little harder than I expected.

"Burn This" is written by Lanford Wilson. The play's about artists and writers living in the big city. Being a writer and artist in a big city, I identified myself too much with the characters. There's an advertising person who feels like a whore. I used to be in advertising. There's a rich novelist who's sold out and negative about his art, looking for something better. I've been there, though I've never written a novel, but I remember having too much money and developing a seething hatred for illustration and graphics. And there's a dancer who is good at what she does, but seems to feel like no one cares because maybe no one really does and when you're stuck in a tiny secluded world like dancing, it's hard to get perspective on anything. What can be more like the world of poetry?

"Burn This" is what would happen if all the people in "Friends" were artists whose worst fears were realities in a cruel and unforgiving world. Instead of the human tendency to self-destruct being on their back burners, it's right there in front. Instead of the slow burn everyone else feels behind their ribs, they're in flames and there's no amount of clever witticisms that can help.

I wish Lanford Wilson had written a play that included at least some of the good stuff about being an artist, but the way it is, I'm left wondering if there is any.

If you want to know kind of what it's like to be an artist, you should come see this play. It's running until August 31.