The good news about BURNING IN THE NIGHT at Theater Works is that it runs through February 24. The bad news is that their intimate black box theater only seats about 70, so you’ll need to buy tickets quickly.
Dale Wasserman’s memoir, deftly adapted as a “memory play with music” by friend Richard Warren, isn’t just about a hobo flipping freights – it’s about riding the rails of life during The Great Depression with all its “danger, discomfort and disaster.”
Wasserman, who died at age 94 in Paradise Valley, is best known for his musical MAN OF LA MANCHA (adapted from his 1959 teleplay I, DON QUIXOTE) and the stage version of Ken Kesey’s novel ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. However, BURNING is only semi-autobiographical.
“He didn’t want it to be the Dale Wasserman story,” said Warren.” He had this kind of essay or memoir, but it wasn’t really theatrical…it was just beautifully written.”
Case in point when Hobo confesses to the audience, “I have lived with hunger. Hunger is a friend. It makes reasonable demands and then it shuts up, if it gets no answer. Thirst makes no bargains. Thirst is savage and unreasonable. Thirst demands.” Let that soak in.
Mike Lawler, who recently played Scrooge at TW, personifies Hobo with a raw gusto that Director Daniel Schay complements using a trio from the Jam Pak Blues ‘N’ Grass Neighborhood Band: Jonathan Young, Franciso Briseño and Giselle Lee. A tip of the barn doors to Dori Brown for lighting that is precise and always on cue.
While the main stage seats 274, it’s currently dedicated to the Youth Works production of AVENUE Q: SCHOOL EDITION. Although both productions let out simultaneously, Q never bleeds over – unlike dueling performances at other venues. (See "And Then There Were None Competes With Itself, Co-production".)
Be sure to mark your calendar for Richard Warren’s SHIFTING GEARS, a story about political and societal revolution during the summer of 1961. It runs March 7 through 24 at Canyon Moon Theatre in Sedona.