Alan Cumming sparks but fails to ignite in ‘Burn’

alan cumming burn
Alan Cumming in ‘Burn’. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

Welcome to the Curtain Call, our most queuing take on the latest openings on Broadway and beyond.

the rundown:

Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns and contemporary actor Alan Cumming converge burn, a dance theater piece co-produced with acclaimed director-choreographer Steven Hoggett. The result is a decade-long dive into the poet’s trials and tribulations, from a poor childhood to multiple love affairs and what today’s researchers can diagnose as bipolar disorder, a life-long struggle with it. If not familiar with Burns’ life or work, the result is a messy and somewhat academic bio-dance, pulled off the page by Cumming’s magnetic display and a stellar design team.

No Tea, No Shade:

Alan Cumming best known to theater audiences for his Tony-winning reimagining of the Master of Ceremony in the 1998 revival cabaret And for TV fans to last as long as Eli Gold good wife and, most recently, with Apple TV+ Mayor Aloysius Menlov Schmigadoon! But his love for theater and literature ran deep, and over the years Cumming wanted to perform in a more “dance heavy” play or musical, as the program noted. burn.

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After attending a 2018 performance at New York City’s premiere dance venue Joyce, Cumming met with the theater’s leadership and began a conversation, establishing a creative collaboration that would span continents, weather a pandemic, and additional Will find its roots with input. Two of Scotland’s leading experts on burns: Kirsten McCue and Dr. Moira Hansen.

alan cumming burn
Alan Cumming in ‘Burn’. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

The creative team’s intense exploration of Burns’ life is revealed in excerpts from his personal writings and published works as audiences weather the storm – literally and figuratively – of a life polarized between joy and pain.

Featuring a tearful score by Anna Meredith, mood-shifting lighting by Tim Lutkin, simple yet effective naturalistic designs by Ana Ines Jabares-Pita, and dynamic video by Andrzej Golding you can expect to experience at the Museum of Modern Art, burn Theater has all the elements of a memorable evening. Still, regardless of the quality of the craft, including some magical bits courtesy of illusion consultant Kevin Quantum, burn Sounds like a threesome where you’re sitting on the couch staring at the clock. but at least Someone having a good time.

alan cumming burn
Alan Cumming in ‘Burn’. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

Of course, being a casual observer has its merits as well. And no one can deny Cumming’s linguistic mastery, which is especially joyful when delivered with a rich Scots dialect that bows and lumbers as Burns’ words demand. Hoggett – choreographically known for an advanced, walking style that challenges weight and space – has been extremely successful with ensembles such as Curious phenomenon of dog at night and cape-fielding harry potter and the cursed child, But with a body and a limited vocabulary of movement (court dance, a little Highland foot-stamping, and deliberately limp hands of a ballet dancer) burn It may have been better served to lean more heavily, in Burns’s words, rather than his physical expression.

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Let’s have a moment:

alan cumming burn
Alan Cumming in ‘Burn’. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

After a dramatic blackout and final tableau, Cumming goes to the lip of the stage, drinks in hand, and sits down. With the fourth wall open, he watches the blackness, reciting a passage from Burns’ poem famous for the melody and timing it is usually recited:

One song and I did…
Should the old acquaintance be forgotten and never brought to notice? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And auld lang syne?
For auld lang sinn, my dear, for auld lang sinn
We’ll take a cup o’ mercy yet, for auld lang cine

The memories we cherish and let go—love and loss, hate and healing; Ups and downs and frantic moments – it was all just burning fodder. And he feasted.

the last word:

alan cumming burn
Alan Cumming in ‘Burn’. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

In program notes, Cumming and Hoggett write, “Maybe this is the right moment to introduce innovation—like Burns himself—yet daredevil.”

if anything, burn Love is labor. If you’ve ever been to a cocktail party, you’ve probably met a couple and thought, “Huh. I don’t get it, but good for them.” Cumming, Hoggett and the team is one such case.

burn Plays at the Joyce Theater in New York City until September 25.

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