Yvonne Korshak reviews Off-Broadway, Broadway, Film and Art

Tag: St. Ann’s Warehouse

Review | Beautiful Burnout by Bryony Lavery | Directed and Choreographed by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett | Additional Choreography by the Company, Frantic Assembly/National Theatre of Scotland | St. Ann’s Warehouse

Two boxers in a local club in Scotland run by the trainer Bobby Burgess take separate paths to the top.  Unfortunately the play fails to let us in on the obstacles either of them faces or how they overcome them with the result that this is one of the most boring plays I’ve ever sat through.

Bobby’s training approach is to set himself up as “God” and requires complete obedience from his boxers.  One of them, independent minded Ajay Chopra, breaks out of this petty autocracy and — off-stage and we have no clue as to how he does it — rises to become a champion.  Taqi Nazeer as Ajay is the only actor in the show with a strong stage presence and, among the men, the only one with the agility and muscular development to be convincing as an athlete.

Out of his remaining boxers, Bobby picks Cameron Burns to challenge Ajay, improbably since Ajay is already at the top and none of Bobby’s boxers is much beyond the wannabe stage.  And why Cameron?  We have no idea since they all seem equally lackluster, nor have we seen anything in Cameron’s personality, nor in any of the others, to engage our empathy.  (Dina, the one girl learning to box, is obviously out of the running.)  The only thing that sets Cameron off from the others is that his mother, a generic lower-class mother closely associated with a washing machine, is the only mother introduced as a character, which pretty well telegraphs the ending.

Parts of the Big Fight between Ajay and Cameron are choreographed effectively but other parts fall flat:  Bobby teaches his boxers not to fight the air but in the effort to keep the onstage fight going awhile without the actors beating one another up, many of their thrusts are air punches.  Dina’s only function is to strut around in a Wonder Woman metallic bikini during the championship fight.  The play, through its outcome, stresses the dangers of boxing, which may be virtuous but doesn’t make up for lack of dramatic strength.  The Music of Underworld has its own excitement and is the best aspect of the production.

In 2008, the National Theatre of Scotland brought a brilliant play, Black Watch, reviewed here, to St. Ann’s Warehouse:  that memory brought me to see Beautiful Burnout — but don’t look for similarity on any level.

Beautiful Burnout plays at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo, Brooklyn, through March 27.

Review | Black Watch by Gregory Burke | Directed by John Tiffany | National Theatre of Scotland | St. Ann’s Warehouse

Black Watch — What a title! The famous Black Watch regiment on its blackest watch:  Iraq.

The regiment’s proud history and the tragic trajectory of its assignment during the Iraq war melded by the acid of irony.

What’s astounding here is the union of naturalistic acting with choreographic flights of imagination.  The regimental crew is so totally believable as soldiers, simple Scottish guys turned military, that it’s hard to believe they’re actors, even from one foot away as I saw them from the first row.  After the play, I expected they’d head back to barracks.  Actually, I felt I’d been in the army.  These are actors?

Yes, brilliant and versatile–and energetic–actors, resolving hostilities in the group with dancing wrestling matches, miming their responses to letters from home–bitter or joyous–with sign language and mime.  Taking gunfire with shock and gallows humor.  Their claustrophobic living conditions and desert dry days are relieved by poignant porn photos, and a sensory overload of raucous, blaring firepower seen from the distance…until it closes in.  In  the individual, resistant breaths of bagpipes we hear men struggling to stay alive.

St. Ann’s theater is set up like a local high school stadium with the drama arena the playing field, and we cheer and fear for these soldiers we know as well as the kids in our class.  It keeps us in touch with their vulnerability.

This is the finest contemporary play I’ve seen since Stephen Adly Guirguis’ Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train.

Black Watch is written by Gregory Burke and directed by John Tiffany, and presented by the National Theatre of Scotland.

St. Ann’s Warehouse is in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Their web site will tell you a lot of ways of getting there.  Go.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén