Sunday, March 6, 2011

Burning Love at PTE

It was the Actors' Fund benefit performance of BURNING LOVE at PTE tonight and the theatre and the company in their opening week generously gave an extra performance to support the charity that supports their fellow artists in need. It was a lovely gesture.

Sylvia Fisher was sitting at the desk,handing out buttons and taking donations. It a city where there are many,many actors and theatre workers and this is a local play I wonder how only 40 people could manage to make it out to support their own community. Certainly the $10 ticket price couldn't have kept people out of the room.

Like the company's largess tonight,BURNING LOVE is a show with a big heart that encompasses, in no particular order: single parent families,bulimia,out-of-body experiences,bull semen, palliative care,star-crossed young love,mai-tais,car crashes,unlikely reunions and Elvis impersonators. Think magic realism meets soap opera with musical bridges provided by The King.

There's no shortage of plot on Sharon Bajer's script and that's occasionally problematic. There are story elements and twists that really,really strained my very willing suspension of disbelief. The play could also probably lose 10 minutes in the first act.

Having said that,the cast of Chelsea Rankin,Miriam Smith,Zachary Stevenson and Richard Waugh has good chemistry. Their warmth and charm coupled with solid musical performances mostly succeeds in wall-papering over the many plot holes and moving the heart-felt story ahead. The two Elvises who admittedly have the more fun part of the show were particularly delightful tonight.

The great set and lighting design by Brian Perchaluk and Scott Henderson respectively certainly helped move things along as did Metcalfe's brisk direction though I could have done with a bit less hop-scotch from light to light. I would love to have seen Miriam Smith's character in more than one costume to better distinguish between her younger,more carefree self and the troubled unhappy grown-up she becomes.

This is a show whose warmth and charm make up for its structural shortcomings. It's a very enjoyable night at the theatre.

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