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"Burning Boy" Looks at the Many Faces of Grief

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'The Dream of the Burning Boy'
RECOMMENDED
When: Through April 28
Where: Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway
Tickets: $35-$40
Info: (773) 549-1815; www.profiles.profilestheatre.org
Run time: 90 minutes, with no intermission


"The Dream of the Burning Boy" is an early work by the still young Canadian-bred, New York-based writer David West Read. It bears some of the weakneses of a fledgling playwright, including an overly manipulated plot. But it also bursts with emotion as it deals with issues of failure and grief, and as it captures adolescent voices with dead-on precision both comic and crushing.

Read's 90-minute play, which takes its title from a setion of Sigmund Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams," is now receiving its Midwest premiere by Profiles Theatre where, under the direction of Joe Jahraus, four hugely impressive young actors (one still in high school and three in college) join several veterans.

'The Dream of the Burning Boy'
RECOMMENDED
When: Through April 28
Where: Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway
Tickets: $35-$40
Info: (773) 549-1815; www.profiles.profilestheatre.org
Run time: 90 minutes, with no intermission


"The Dream of the Burning Boy" is an early work by the still young Canadian-bred, New York-based writer David West Read. It bears some of the weakneses of a fledgling playwright, including an overly manipulated plot. But it also bursts with emotion as it deals with issues of failure and grief, and as it captures adolescent voices with dead-on precision both comic and crushing.

Read's 90-minute play, which takes its title from a setion of Sigmund Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams," is now receiving its Midwest premiere by Profiles Theatre where, under the direction of Joe Jahraus, four hugely impressive young actors (one still in high school and three in college) join several veterans.

The play begins with an ordinary encounter that quickly turns nightmarish. A high school English teacher, Larry (Darrell W. Cox, aptly disheveled and haggard), meets with Dane (Vic Kuligoski, still at Columbia College), a gifted student whose recent paper about Dante's "Inferno" is below par. Dane begs for some slack in his grade, but Larry is determined to hold him to the highest standard. Seconds after leaving the office, Dane collapses and dies of a brain aneurysm. Larry is devastated. [Spoiler alert: His teacher was, as Hamlet might have said, "a little more than kin and less than kind."]

In many ways the rest of the play explores the various manifestations grief can take -- from pain, guilt, anger, remorse, awkwardness and forced sentimentality to nervous humor. It also brings to mind the countless memorial services that have followed so many recent shooting incidents, with all the stuffed animals, bouquets, handwritten messages, tears, hugs and the rest trying to assuage the terrible reality. Steve (Eric Burgher), a former student of Larry's who now works as a school guidance counselor, hangs inane inspirational posters in the halls and orders pizza.

Far more upended is Dane's nerdy sister, Rachel (Alaina Stacey, a Whitney Young High School senior making a knockout professional debut). She is in agony -- enraged by the hypocrisy of her classmates, among whom is the leggy, popular Chelsea (Marilyn Bass, a freshman at Loyola University), who was Dane's girlfriend, and is in charge of the Facebook memorial for him. As it happens, she was cheating on Dane with Kyle (Joel Collins, a University of Illinois Chicago student), a cute, quirky boy far more interested in Rachel. And the vulnerable Rachel even allows herself to be melted by him.

The bitterness between Chelsea and Rachel is fiercely played. Its adult counterpart comes in the encounter between the emotionally arrested Larry and Dane's mother, Andrea (Sarah Chalcroft), who, many years earlier, he left pregnant and on her own.

Among the loveliest bits of writing here is the eulogy Rachel pens for her brother. Full of literary puns, it is sweet, funny and true. It makes you want to hear more from this playwright.

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This page contains a single entry by Hedy Weiss published on April 2, 2013 4:58 PM.

Suburban baker goes for the dough on 'The American Baking Competition' was the previous entry in this blog.

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