Review: Profiles Theatre’s The Dream of the Burning Boy

Yes, another Profile Theatre production, and yes I went to go and see it… why make the trip? Because, first and foremost I am a friend, and as a friend I make sure I support (a select number) my friends in their endeavors…

So since one of my friends happens to be filling in as understudy for one of the leads of Profile Theatre’s current production of The Dream of the Burning Boy… I made sure to squeeze in time in my crazy schedule to make a trip to see him with the original cast (though i suppose I would make the trip to understudy night as well but I digress).

Upon entering the “alley stage” of Profiles Theatre I was struck by the classroom setting and am immediately intrigued by the ambience and environment of a production I am walking in knowing nothing about.

Well considering that this is a matinee show (and as much as it pains me to say it) the pacing felt slow right at the beginning. This isn’t always the fault of the actors or the production team, because I find this to be an issue for professional theatre productions as well as on Broadway… matinee shows just don’t have the same kind of energy as the evening shows. Period.

From the Profiles Theatre website:

Since the sudden death of his favorite student, high-school teacher Larry Morrow has been falling asleep at his desk and dreaming. Steve, the school’s guidance counselor, hangs inspirational posters designed to help everyone “process their emotions” while the student’s sister and friends find little solace in their schoolwork. The Dream of the Burning Boy is a bittersweet story of choices made, opportunities lost, and finding the strength to move on.

That being said…

Vic Kuligoski (Dane) caught my attention very quickly and I soon found myself wondering when he was going to come back on stage after the first scene. There is something about Vic’s performance that struck a chord with me, innocent in a way because most anyone should be able to relate to talking to a teacher about a poor grade or assignment in class and wanting to know how they could improve…

The other students in the production (Marilyn Bass, Joel Collins, Alaina Stacey) were very realistic in their portrayals if a bit spastic. It took a while for me to realize the relationships between the individual students. Then again high school students have a tendency to be all over the place when it came to their thoughts and emotions… so I can’t say that I am surprised.

So when more than initially believed came out of the students later in the production I couldn’t help myself but look back to earlier scenes to see if there were clues or moments that would help make sense… and truth be told there were.

Each of the students stood out in very different ways and considering that they are still in high school or college (geez, they are getting younger every year!) I say that their futures are looking pretty bright as long as they continue to work and polish their craft. It’s a hard world out there…

With Jeff Gamlin stepping in as Larry… he had the difficult task of not only relating to the younger generation, but also for the in between generation in the form of Steve portrayed by Eric Burgher. You could see how worn out and wary Larry becomes with every passing day and how the social and personal difficulties of the students he teaches was also weighing down on him. Not only that, you know from his actions and inactions that there is more on his mind than meets the eye and when the truth comes out, it is like a lightbulb turning on right above your head (or a doh! moment).

But what struck me the most about Jeff was his chemistry with Sarah Chalcroft (Andrea) something between the two of them clicked and it was almost as if everything made sense. Every single emotion that one could think could pass between two people from pain to anger, sadness to depression, joy to wistfulness… and perhaps even love and regret registered between the two of them and their very short scene together. Personally, I would consider that to be the best scene of the whole show.

The final piece of this elaborate puzzle is Eric Burgher (Steve)… the in between of the students of the high school and the teachers. Having been a student himself and having been taught by Larry, Steve spends a fair chunk of the production trying (and at times too hard) to help everyone around him to move on. It is true, he may not know what is really going on, but you have to give him points for trying. His sense of over-eagerness was irritating but understandable… and his persistence eventually pays off in dividends towards the end in his final scene with Jeff.

If there is anything to say about Eric is that he has managed to portray the character in such a way that I can’t help but want to smack him upside the head and tell him to pull back… or just sit back and enjoy his pitbull persistence because that just happens to be entertaining. But this is coming from someone that really can’t stand high school guidance counselors to begin with, so I might be just a little biased.

The pacing picked up as the show continued, and as I said before, considering that I saw the matinee production, I can’t knock off any points for that… this is just something that happens all over the place in theatre whether it is professional, amateur, Broadway or community theatre… just something about it.

If you have the chance to see this latest production from Profiles Theatre, GO SEE IT! NOW!!! If they keep cranking out productions that I find myself enjoying, I may actually attempt to go when my friend is not in the production… well… if my life slows down enough for that. But for right now I will content myself in stopping by when my friend is on stage, because then I know that I will always be seeing a well done production in the end of the day.

Unless it is horror related… because if there is a horror related play next time I am going to run out of the theatre and refuse to step inside again because I can’t stand horror… but I digress. 😉

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