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Monday, 14 May 2012 19:28

It's a match

Written by Bob Wilcox
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Adam Flores as Pale? I thought director Rachel Tibbetts had miscast.

I'd seen John Malkovich and Peter Mayer as Pale in productions of Lanford Wilson's Burn This. Pale is a menacing figure when he bursts into Anna's apartment at a very early hour, more than a little crazed. Malkovich and Mayer both loom large enough to threaten, should they so choose.

Flores is smaller, more wiry than massively muscular. I'd just seen him play a hilarious Shakespeare clown in the Shakespeare Festival's street theatre. Could he be Pale?

Boy, could he. Apparently, Flores can do anything. The massive energy with which he explodes on the scene is terrifying. He's a ticking time bomb.

But the bomb never really goes off. Pale is a more complex figure than first appears.

Pale – he got the nickname from his favorite drink, brandy – is the brother of Robbie, Anna's partner in a dance company, with whom she shares an apartment. Robbie and his lover have been killed in a freak boating accident. Pale tells Anna he's come to pick up his brother's things.

But he's really come for something more, something that Anna too wants, and that's some kind of comfort in their loss. Strangely enough, this unlikely pair, so very different in so many ways, do find that comfort in each other.

Wilson unfolds a fascinating play around the tentative approaches and retreats of Anna and Pale. It's beautifully calibrated, enriched with the contributions of Larry, Anna and Robbie's other apartment-mate, and Anna's lover Burton, a very successful screenwriter.

Ellie Schwetye plays Anna. She's tall and slender, like a dancer. Like Flores, I'd seen her do some fine comedy. Like him, she does serious too, very well.

There's still more versatility on that Slightly Askew stage. We recently saw Jared Sanz-Agero as the abusive husband in Bug. Now he's gay, in advertising, wrists just limp enough to be a convincing source of the kind of wit, put-downs, and come-ons we call a gay sensibility.

Reginald Pierre is stuck playing Burton, Anna's boyfriend. He's the least interesting person in the quartet. Like the character, perhaps because of the character, Pierre is limited, but he fills the role. And, thanks to fight choreographer Bob Mitchell, he and Flores unleash some testosterone in an exciting way.

Scenic designer Thom Schwetye provides a spare apartment-cum-dance studio, with lighting by Michael Bergfeld and costumes by Tracey Newcomb-Margrave. A group called I Love You, I Know supplies interesting original music that goes on a little too long at the opening of the second act and way too long at the opening of the first act. It's director Tibbetts one misstep.

Burn This is a strong production of a strong script at Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble.

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