Philip Dawkins’ Crucible-inspired drama The Burn debuted last year in Chicago with four teen actresses playing public high school students, navigating Arthur Miller’s McCarthy-era political parable with the aid of a well-meaning but goofy English teacher. The Wilbury Group production features adults in all the roles, all five played by some of the company’s most familiar faces. The play acknowledges a surprising number of subjects – the overtly Christian overtones of addiction recovery programs, for instance – while only diving deeper into the main drama, that of pious Mercy (Sarah Leach) and her inability to fit in at a Chicago public high school. As her nemesis, Daraja Hinds makes an excellent alpha, outwardly smart and manipulative but inwardly flailing around just as much as every other teenager. (Even some of the insults – that Mercy is fat, for instance – seem wildly divorced from reality.) One of the other girls is inexplicably played by the male actor Jeff Hodge, though thankfully without any trace of distracting campiness or drag. You don’t need to like (or even know) The Crucible to appreciate this crafty, unsettling drama.
[photo: Erin X. Smithers]