‘The Dream of the Burning Boy’ a hit and miss for playwright
By Hedy Weiss Theater Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org April 2, 2013 5:50PM
Marilyn Bass (from left), Joel Collins and Alaina Stacey star in “The Dream of the Burning Boy” at Profiles Theatre.
‘THE DREAM OF
THE BURNING BOY’
When: Through April 28
Where: Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway
Info: (773) 549-1815; www.profiles.theatre.org
Run time: 90 minutes, with no intermission
Updated: May 4, 2013 6:16AM
‘The Dream of the Burning Boy” is an early work by the 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 failure and grief and captures adolescent voices at once comic and crushing.
The 90-minute play, which takes its title from Sigmund Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams,” is now receiving its Midwest premiere by Profiles Theatre where, under director Joe Jahraus, four hugely impressive young actors (one still in high school and three in college) join several veterans.
It 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 holds him to the highest standard. Seconds later, Dane collapses and dies of a brain aneurysm. Larry is devastated. (Spoiler alert: His teacher was, as Hamlet said, “a little more than kin and less than kind.”)
The rest of the play explores various manifestations of grief (pain, guilt, anger, remorse, forced sentimentality, nervous humor) and brings to mind the countless memorial services that have followed so many recent shooting incidents. Steve (Eric Burgher), the school guidance counselor, even pens inane posters.
Dane’s nerdy sister, Rachel (Alaina Stacey, a Whitney Young High School senior, in a knockout professional debut) is truly upended — enraged by the hypocrisy of her classmates played by Marilyn Bass (a Loyola University freshman) and Joel Collins (University of Illinois Chicago). Also in agony is Dane’s mother (Sarah Chalcroft), who Larry left pregnant years earlier.
Rachel’s eulogy for her brother, full of literary puns, is sweet, funny and true and makes you want to hear more from this playwright.