Reading Dante can challenge even a bright adolescent, but the Divine Comedy rarely does your head in. Yet thats apparently the case in The Dream of the Burning Boy, a sympathetic but unsuccessful play scripted by David West Read and directed by Evan Cabnet at Roundabout Underground.
Reed Birney and Josh Caras
The Dream of the Burning Boy
By David West Read
111 West 46th Street
In the opening scene, star student Dane (Josh Caras) meets with his English teacher, Larry (Reed Birney), to discuss a paper entitled Losing My Virgil-ity: My First Date With Danteonly to suffer a brain aneurysm. The play then follows Larrys grief, as well as the sorrows of Danes sister, girlfriend, best friend, and mother, combining extracts from Dante and Freud with high school melodrama.
A young playwright, Read is at least a decade away from both the adolescents and their elders. (His only age-mate in the script is a deeply ineffectual guidance counselor who responds to tragedy with a poster campaign.) The conversations among the teenagers, though overwrought, seem possibly credible, but Reads notion of how adults speak and behave strains plausibility, particularly in the scene between Larry and Danes mother. Birneys talents alone keep the dialogue from devolving into absurdity, but this English teacher deserves a better lesson plan.