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Burn This

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  993 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Commissioned by the Circle Repertory Company, Burn This first appeared at the Mark Taper Forum in Los angeles in 1987 to near-universal praise. Set in the bohemian art world of downtown New York, this vivid and challenging drama explores the spiritual and emotional isolation of Anna and Pale, two outcasts who meet in the wake of the accidental death by drowning of a mutual ...more
Paperback, 98 pages
Published February 1st 1988 by Hill and Wang (first published December 31st 1987)
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Fifth of July by Lanford WilsonLudlow Fair & Home Free by Lanford WilsonFour Short Plays by Lanford WilsonBalm in Gilead by Lanford WilsonThe Rimers of Eldritch by Lanford Wilson
Best of Lanford Wilson
13th out of 33 books — 1 voter
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Goodreads Top 100 Stage Plays of All Time
284th out of 318 books — 292 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jan 29, 2012 Bob rated it really liked it
Never thought much about this playwright but I can easily envision paying money to see this (especially for its 1987 debut with John Malkovich as the somewhat emotionally complex but also thuggish Pale - plainly an opportunity unlikely to recur).

The opening stage directions say "the time is the present" but there's a lot that is quite period-specific (cocaine, Tribeca as wasteland for only brave artists and so on).

Not really central to the play, but I enjoyed a speech he puts in the mouth of a c
Dec 16, 2014 Tim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theatre
This was a very fine play - just the kind of thing that I like to see - a realistic, taut, contemporary drama with comic elements and interesting characters. This begins shortly after the funeral of a character who does not appear on stage, but whose presence is felt throughout the play. The main characters are the deceased's roommate and best friend (a woman), lover, brother, and a screenwriter who is seeing the woman. Everybody is in a blue state at the beginning, and the dead dancer's brother ...more
Jan 01, 2008 amy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
Junior year at UMD - I played Anna, my dear friend Peter Ooley played Pale and one of my favorite professors, Ann, directed this amazing play by Lanford Wilson. We had a Romanian guy here that designed the set. I had no idea he was paying attention at our rehearsals until he walked me to class one day and lectured me on how I was portraying Anna as a diva. He was right; from that moment on, I viewed her differently which influenced the way I moved and delivered lines. I loved reading, memorizing ...more
Reesa Graham
Aug 20, 2015 Reesa Graham rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite ever play from my favorite ever playwright. The relationship are complex and real and heartbreaking and exhilarating. Wilson's talent as a character creator comes through loud and clear in these very real characters.
Olivia Souza
Nov 19, 2015 Olivia Souza rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Olivia by: Acting teacher
Fascinating play, but I'm not sure I quite get it yet. I want to read a few more times or maybe be in it before I pass judgement. I really enjoyed the first read through.
May 31, 2014 Caitlin rated it really liked it
Quite the compelling read - and I'm sure even more so to see performed live. Sometimes I can find plays harder to get into on the page, but this one was really riveting.
Layde Ravyn
Oct 05, 2015 Layde Ravyn rated it it was amazing
How I wish there was a kindle version. It would have a permanent home on my kindle!
Sara Elice
Jul 31, 2009 Sara Elice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: play
I like this play. I was introduced to it in a class by Adrian Pasdar and it was hard to get a real sense of who the characters were from the snippits we read, so I wanted to read the whole thing to understand why he loves this play so much. And it's pretty good.

The way Pale speaks is really awkward. I get that it's stylized, but I can't actualy imagine an actor reciting it as written...although I'm sure Malkovich pulled it off spectacularly. It's just hard to picture.
Aug 20, 2007 A. rated it really liked it
Shelves: theater
My senior thesis show -- uneven and heavily dependent on having an actor who can carry Pale (who reads terribly on the page; his long speeches, which are completely spell-binding with a good actor, are awkward and hard to read), but with moments of utter transcendence. Probably doesn't deserve four stars, but holds a soft spot in my heart.

"Make it personal, tell the truth, and then write 'Burn This' on it."
Aug 05, 2008 Valerie rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Shawn, Debbie
Recommended to Valerie by: Shakespeare Santa Cruz
Shelves: drama
I didn't actually read this, I saw it performed at Shakespeare Santa Cruz. I thought it was very good in places (had some lovely lines), but I never really bought the attraction between some of the characters. I'm not sure if that has to do with the play or the performance.
Nov 14, 2010 Maria rated it it was ok
Shelves: plays
I think this play was probably really relevant 20 years ago. But to my modern San Francisco sensibilities, it just seemed dated. I know Lanford Wilson is a big name in the canon so I will try other plays, but hopefully they will be less topical.
Real Supergirl
Jun 11, 2007 Real Supergirl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama
I still think this is one of the best plays ever written, and that the production of it I directed in 1991, when I was a senior in high school, remains the best production of it I've ever seen? Is that hubris?
Sep 12, 2014 Jessica rated it liked it
Reading this and knowing John Malkovich played Pale...gosh, I wish I could've seen that! Sadly, that was when I was four. Not exactly ready for this then...
May 12, 2012 Matt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: play-hunt
Hands down one of the greatest plays ever written. If not my favorite play it is without a doubt in the top three of all time and will always remain there.
Sep 24, 2008 Shane rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
Fucking awesome. This is Wilson's masterpiece, I think. The language is ultra realistic and it's a beautiful fucking love story that shouldn't be.
Gregory Knapp
Dec 30, 2015 Gregory Knapp rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays, nyc
Lanford Wilson will have to slug it out with Sam Shepard for Best American Playwright of the last quarter of the 20th Century.
Jul 16, 2007 Marc rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama
The most challenging acting I've ever done. This story will haunt you and disturb you and make you feel love and pain.
Oct 15, 2007 Alexis rated it it was amazing
my god i cried and cried. i haven't seen this produced yet. it might kill me.
Feb 15, 2009 Jeanie rated it it was ok
My bookclub pick. Heavy and old fashioned co-dependent love story.
Chuck O'Connor
Jun 16, 2012 Chuck O'Connor rated it liked it
Great characters, no plot so I didn't care about the characters.
Christina Packard
I didn't find a lot to hang on to in this story.
Aug 03, 2008 April rated it liked it
I will update after I see the play live.
Dec 30, 2015 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Love this play
Jul 30, 2007 Esther rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2001-2004
Simple and moving.
Wayne rated it liked it
May 20, 2016
Sara Escobedo
Sara Escobedo rated it really liked it
May 19, 2016
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Keelin M marked it as to-read
May 16, 2016
Matt Greene
Matt Greene rated it it was amazing
May 16, 2016
Amanda Dolan
Amanda Dolan rated it it was amazing
May 14, 2016
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May 14, 2016
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Lanford Wilson was an American playwright, considered one of the founders of the Off-Off-Broadway theater movement. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1980, was elected in 2001 to the Theater Hall of Fame, and in 2004 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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