CAST: Ray Barnhart, Joseph Beck, Lucius Bryant III, Peter Cilella, David DeSantos, Heather Seiffert, Shani Tennyson, Arimah Trinadad, and Amy Wolf
LA TIMES - ‘Slow Burn’ A Loopy Romp (Victoria Looseleaf)
If you can picture Orson Welles as a matriarchal black woman with frizzed hair that rivals the Bride of Frankenstein’s, sporting sequined mules and puffing a cigarillo, you’ll savor the gender-bending lunacy of “Slow Burn,” a sendup of Martin Ritt’s 1958 film “The Long Hot Summer.”
Directed and choreographed by Jessica Schroeder and performed by her Outlaw Style Thrance Company (“thrance” is Schroeder’s fusion of theater and dance), “Burn,” at the McCadden Place Theatre, provides a hunk of hilarious bang for your buck.
Besides the dead-on portrayal of Arimah Trinidad’s Welles, Schroeder has assembled a cast of eight other equally adroit actors, all making sublime art of role reversals. Where the original Paul Newman-Joanne Woodward melodrama was a pastiche of William Faulkner short stories, with alcoholic Southern families (they put the fun in dysfunction) vying for power, land and sex, this madcap deconstruction gives us the blue-eyed, barn-burning drifter as a woman (Amy Wolf) to David DeSantos’ Woodward – a swooning, sedative-popping, headache-prone belle, here resembling Ray Liotta in windowpane-checked pants and straw boater.
Much of the idiosyncratic dialogue has been appropriated from Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch’s screenplay. Lines like “I ain’t selling you, I’m saving you” and “Your conscience talks too much” keep the production humming. It’s the choreography – punctuating every scene – that’s in need of tweaking. Set to more than a dozen Ray Charles tunes, Schroeder’s movement vocabulary is limited (swooping arms, arched backs, lazy turns), while the actors (including Shani Tennyson, Peter Cilella and Ray Barnhart) look awkward slinking in the tiny space. That said, Schroeder’s “Slow Burn” is a hot romp.