Ginger Lazarus’s take on Cyrano, in her version called Burning, is a play filled with four letter words and so much non eloquence that Edmond Rostand would be rolling in his grave. Gone is the romantic poetry in leu of a implausible lesbian plot line. Here Cyrano is Cy (Catherine Curtin) a former sergeant who left the army because she couldn’t live with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule. She is in love with Rose (Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy) who is African American and straight. Rose loves Cole (Sean Phillips), an Iraq-bound soldier at the nearby Army base, who instead of being able to talk, gives her a “shiner” in his rush to hide his inability to speak. He communicates in e-mails, which Cy ghostwrites for Cole.
This play takes on gender inequality, military abuse, cover-ups of female soldier “suicides” and homophobia, which should make for a interesting plot line and relevant for today’s audience, the problem is it doesn’t. The language is stilted, clunky, forced and as unromantic as you can get.
Ms. Lazarus would have created a better play if she had avoided the love story and gone for a show that bit into the facts and truth of what happens to gay people and women in the military.
There are also several sub plots that take away from the action. In Act II Cy and Dulac (Chris Ceraso), the General who was in charge of Cy, face off. It is a great scene, but had little to do with what came before it. There is also a gay young boy Sammy (Zachary Clarence) who works for Cy who is targeted by the men at the base. Again this play takes on too many issues and doesn’t really complete it’s thoughts.
Catherine Curtin, best known for “Orange is the New Black” has moments, but she is bogged down by this play that gives her little to work with. She is best when showing her vulnerability and not playing the angry dyke (their word in the play not mine). Fauntleroy as Rose is indecisive. Again she is asked to play a women who allows someone to give them a black eye, off with some flowery words. What is that saying? I never once believed her love for anybody or anything. Phillips only shows anger, so it is easy to believe why Rose has problems believing him. The one non union member Clarence, adds comic relief within a layered performance. Ironically it is Clarence and Curtain who have the chemistry here and I would rather have watched their dynamics played out.
The stage dwarfs this show and the direction by Eric Parness did not help. The lights by Pamela Kupper were simple, but well done.
It is time to end violence against women within the military, unfortunately this play will not help that cause. For more on this subject, I highly recommend a documentary called “The Invisible War.”
Burning plays in repertory with Cyrano de Bergerac:Resonance Ensemble at Theatre of St. Clement’s 423 West 46th St, until Feb. 28th.