LA Weekly Reviews “The Dream of the Burning Boy”

It’s to scenic designer Erin Walley’s credit that she festoons the guidance counselor’s office at the high school where David West Read’s play is set with a poster that reads, “Face Your Problems, Don’t Facebook Them!!” In the wake of the sudden death of popular student Dane (Matthias Chrans), the decoration’s tone perfectly captures not only the characters’ reaction to Dane’s passing–slightly flip with an underlying sincerity–but also what each of them must ultimately do. This starts with Dane’s English teacher Larry (Jeff Hayenga), who was the last to speak with him, and includes Dane’s sister Rachel (a manically intense Jayne McLendon), his girlfriend Chelsea (Joslyn Kramer), his friend Kyle (Zach Palmer), and his mother Andrea (a scene-stealing Melissa Kite). As the characters come to terms with the tragedy, the hidden ways in which they are connected slowly come to light, nudged along by Steve (Tyler Ritter), the young guidance counselor who was Larry’s student not so long ago. Director Edward Edwards deftly balances the comedy and tragedy in the piece, playing its emotional intensity palpably and engagingly.Hayenga and Ritter play well off each other with an odd-couple vibe,and Palmer’s high school boyishness is eminently believable. But while cast and director give it their all, the script, despite clever jokes and a tonally spot-on rendition of the high school experience, feels thin, with a number of storylines and characters that could stand to be fleshed out and further explored.
–Mayank Keshaviah

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