Burning: A Bridge is the story of two twenty-somethings being pulled apart by life. Jay is intent on moving across the country to pursue fame and fortune while feeling like a fraud and Clara feels trapped at home by commitments to school, work and family. Both feel cast adrift and abandoned by the other and helpless to stop their once solid friendship from disintegrating.
At one point, Jay worries her problems are all a bunch of clichés which is a touchingly twenty-something concern. I’m sorry, twenty-somethings, but IT DOESN’T GET BETTER; your friends will continue to be insufferable and disappointing, and so will you for that matter, and you’ll never stop freaking out about what you’re doing with your life and those lonely and elaborate rationalizations will keep right on mesmerizing you well into the night. These are rich veins that will never run dry. Keep mining them. Though please stop worrying about the impressiveness or lack thereof of your Facebook profile. No one cares but you.
I mention this because my favourite line in the whole play was about Facebook. I’m not actually sure it was meant to be funny since I think I’m the only one who laughed, but it was a hilarious and insightful line that may simply have been lost in the jarring tone shifts between straightforward angst and the raucous party atmosphere called for by burlesque.
Unfortunately, the character development is a little skimpy and played out pretty well entirely by people yelling at their smart phones in the dark. Neither Jay nor Clara, as is pointed out by them and to them, are exactly stellar communicators, which is where an impressive assortment of local and semi-local burlesque performers come in, their pieces stitching together the text-based vignettes and appearing to serve the function of expressing some aspect of the inner turmoil of the characters that they can’t express to each other or even to themselves.
The dance pieces range from riffing on classic burlesque themes to more daring, edgy approaches. In some of these performances, an attribute of either preceding scene or a character’s seems to be loosely manifested. However, the thematic connections are not consistent, and with no interaction at all between the actors and the dancers, the two halves of the show seem to exist in parallel universes, neither really affecting the energy of the other. In fact, the moment of the play I found most touching was a lovely semi one-sided interaction between Jay and the silent stage hand who was simply minding her own business, picking up discarded unmentionables. In this scene, with the remnants of the previous dancer’s garments drawing the attention of the characters, there is some suggestion of how the two elements could have worked together to tell a more cohesive story.
Jasmine Bowen and Caitlin Corbett do fine jobs as the drifting friends, the dialogue is sometimes quite poetic and the burlesque performers were all fabulous, but as it was, the play seemed tacked around a burlesque variety show that would have worked just fine without it while the text based portions could have used a little more flesh.
Burning: A Bridge, presented by Monstrous Nights Theatre was at Club Saw from August 27 – 29, 2015.