Burn This

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Burn This is a play by Lanford Wilson. Like much of Wilson's work, the play includes themes of gay identity and relationships.

Plot summary[edit]

The play begins shortly after the funeral of Robbie, a young, gay dancer who drowned in a boating accident with his lover Dom. In attendance were Robbie's roommates: his sensitive dance partner and choreographer, Anna, and confident, gay ad man Larry. Soon joining them in Robbie's lower Manhattan loft are screenwriter Burton (Anna's longtime lover) and Pale (Robbie's cocaine-snorting, hyperactive restaurant manager brother). In the face of their shared tragedy, the quartet attempts to make sense of their lives and reconsider their own identities and relationships. Anna learns to be independent and self-confident. She begins to pursue her interest in choreography and begins a relationship with Pale, ending her dispassionate relationship with her longtime boyfriend.[1]

Production history[edit]

Burn This was commissioned by the Circle Repertory Company. The play premiered Off-Broadway on February 19, 1987 at Theatre 890. Directed by Marshall W. Mason, the cast featured Jonathan Hogan, Joan Allen, John Malkovich, and Lou Liberatore. John Lee Beatty won the 1988 Henry Hewes Design Award for Scenic Design for this production.[2] The play was also produced by the Center Theatre Group at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 1987, also directed by Mason.[3][4][5]

The play transferred to Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre, opening on October 14, 1987 and closing on October 29, 1988 after 437 performances and seven previews. Again directed by Mason, the original cast appeared in the Broadway production.[6][7] Over the course of the production, replacements and understudies included Lisa Emery, Scott Glenn, Lonny Price, and Eric Roberts.[8][9]

The Sydney Theatre Company in Australia presented Burn This at the Wharf Theatre in 1990, starring Heather Mitchell and Richard Roxburgh.

The 2002 Signature Theatre Company revival directed by James Houghton at the Union Square Theatre opened on August 27 in previews, officially on September 19, and closed on December 29, 2002.[10] The cast featured Edward Norton, Catherine Keener, Ty Burrell, and Dallas Roberts. Norton won an Obie Award, and both he and the production received Lucille Lortel Award nominations.[11] Peter Sarsgaard replaced Norton, and Elisabeth Shue replaced Keener on November 20, 2002.[10][11][12]

The West End production directed by Robert Allan Ackerman opened on November 7, 1990 at the Lyric Theatre. Malkovich and Liberatore were joined by Juliet Stevenson and Michael Simkins. The play had previously played at the Hampstead Theatre prior to transferring to the Lyric Theatre.[4]

A Broadway revival of Burn This was announced to begin in February 2017 and open on March 6, 2017 at the re-opened Hudson Theatre. Jake Gyllenhaal was to star, with direction by Michael Mayer.[13] On October 21, 2016, it was announced that the production has been postponed until the 2017-18 season due to scheduling conflicts with Gyllenhaal.[14] On December 14, 2017, several magazines announced that a new production of Burn This was scheduled for 2019, with Adam Driver as Pale.[15] A revival is scheduled to open on Broadway at the Hudson Theatre on March 15, 2019 in previews. The cast will feature Adam Driver as Pale, Keri Russell as Anna, David Furr as Burton and Brandon Uranowitz as Larry, with direction by Michael Mayer.[16]


Joan Allen won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play, and Lou Liberatore was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for the 1987 production. Drama Desk Award nominations went to Liberatore and John Malkovich, and Eric Roberts won the Theatre World Award.[7]


  1. ^ Jacobi, Martin J. "'The Monster Within' in Lanford Wilson's Burn This" in Lanford Wilson: A Casebook, Jackson R. Bryer (ed.) Garland Publishing, Inc.: New York, 1994, 131-149.
  2. ^ "'Burn This' 1987" Archived 2015-10-04 at the Wayback Machine Lortel Archives. Accessed September 3, 2015.
  3. ^ Gerard, Jeremy. "Limited Run for Wilson Play" The New York Times, January 9, 1987, p. C5.
  4. ^ a b "From Missouri to Manhattan" in Discovery and Invention: The Urban Plays of Lanford Wilson, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1994. ISBN 0838635482, pp. 28-29.
  5. ^ Wilson, Lanford. "Script" in Burn This: A Play, Macmillan Publishers, 1988. ISBN 0374521581, p. 102.
  6. ^ Rich, Frank. "The Dancer Upstairs" The New York Times, October 15, 1987.
  7. ^ a b "'Burn This' Broadway" Playbill. Accessed September 3, 2015.
  8. ^ "'Burn This' listing 1987 see replacement" Internet Broadway Database. Accessed September 3, 2015.
  9. ^ "'Burn This' To Close" The New York Times, October 27, 1988.
  10. ^ a b Weinstein, Jerry and Lohrey, David. "Review. 'Burn This' 2002" CurtainUp, September 15 and December 15, 2002.
  11. ^ a b "'Burn This' 2002" Archived 2015-10-03 at the Wayback Machine Lortel Archives. Accessed September 3, 2015.
  12. ^ Jones, Kenneth and Simonson, Robert. "'Burn This' Re-Ignites With Shue and Sarsgaard Nov. 20" Playbill, November 20, 2002.
  13. ^ Henry, Alan. "'Breaking: Jake Gyllenhaal Will Return to Broadway in 'Burn This' at The Hudson Theatre" BroadwayWorld.com, July 19, 2016.
  14. ^ "Broadway Revival of Lanford Wilson's 'Burn This' Postponed Until 2017-18 Season" BroadwayWorld.com, October 21, 2016.
  15. ^ Cox, Gordon (December 14, 2017). "Adam Driver to Star in 'Burn This' on Broadway". Variety. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  16. ^ Clement, Olivia. "Brandon Uranowitz and David Furr Join 'Burn This' on Broadway at the Hudson Theatre" Playbill, November 27, 2018

External links[edit]