Patrick Martin and Jody P. Person in 2 BURN.
BOTTOM LINE: This noir mystery packs plenty of surprising plot twists and impassioned sex scenes.
The sexual power dynamic between student and teacher is one that has been explored in both literature and theater, as in David Mamet’s play Oleanna and Francine Prose’s recent novel Blue Angel. Alex DeFazio’s play, 2 Burn, certainly seems derivative of both of these works, but changing the sexual teacher/student relationship from heterosexual to homosexual changes the politics at the heart of the play. DeFazio’s multiple plot twists however, elevate the plot beyond the central power play and give a feel of noir mystery with dramatic turns the audience never sees coming.
Paul (Jody P. Person, who co-directed with Jennifer Joyce) is an English professor dealing with a recent break up by throwing himself into his work. His boyfriend of years left him one night without so much as a note or phone call, leaving Paul to guess at the cause. His dreary existence is brightened by the arrival of Manny (Patrick Martin) a young student at the university who looks even younger than his mere 19 years. Manny is intent on taking Paul’s class in theory but he is barely pulling a C in a prerequisite poetry course taught by his colleague Maureen (Deena Jiles), the only other openly gay member of faculty. Maureen has been jibing Paul to move on offering such advice as: “Burn for something other than those dull metal objects you call words.”
Paul’s downcast spirit make him easily persuaded by Manny’s enthusiasm and flirtations. On their second meeting Paul asks Manny to his apartment and any boundary of professionalism is quickly deteriorated. The two enter into a backwards, forwards game of flirting with Paul initially feigning innocence despite his obvious interest. The first passionate moment however, initiated by Manny, comes to a halt when Paul reveals that he is HIV positive.
The fact that this play is attempting to follow a mystery template means that a series of further plot twists unfold (all set to a soundtrack of pouring rain). Some of the twists and dramas seem a bit unrealistic and over-the-top, but fitting when you realize that writer DeFazio was using film noir as his guiding inspiration. The play also carries a fitting theme with the idea of love being a fever or a burning desire, reflected both by Paul’s discussions in theory as well as the scene changing music that includes such cute choices as Madonna’s “Burning Up” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire.” Acting-wise, Person and Martin initially give slightly stilted performances with mismatched volume levels, Person is a little loud and Martin is quiet enough that some of his dialogue slips past the audience’s ears. Both Jiles and Michelle Wood as Sarah (who is just one of the many surprising key plot twists the play has in store) give convincing performances. The play’s sexual scenes feel authentic and passionate in their staging, a credit to Jennifer Joyce and Person. If the long lines of men that waited in the (fittingly) pouring rain for Sunday’s sold out show are any sign, the scenes are plenty titillating with Martin performing fully nude in one.
2 Burn might not be a perfect show, but it’s plenty of fun. Those looking for both titillation and suspense need not look further.
(2 Burn plays at The Living Theatre, 21 Clinton Street, through August 25, 2011. Remaining performances are Wednesday, August 24th at 5:15PM; and Thursday, August 25th at 2PM. Tickets are $15 and are available at fringenyc.org. For more show info visit elixirproductions.org. For more info about FringeNYC visit fringnyc.org.)