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Throw Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up

a Comedy
by Lucy Alibar

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Discovery Point Studio [WEBSITE]
ID# 5126

SHOWING : September 08, 2017 - October 01, 2017



Oscar-nominated screenwriter and playwright Lucy Alibar ("Beasts of the Southern Wild") crafted this poetic and
powerful solo performance around her life growing up in the middle of nowhere on the Georgia-Florida line. The tapestry of her childhood includes a lecherous goat, Pentecostals on the radio, a clutter of in-bred cats, phone calls from death row, and Daddy’s burnpile. A magical, Southern coming-of-age tale rife with humor and heart.

The Girl Taylor Dooley
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Lights Indeed
by playgoer
Friday, September 15, 2017
For a one-woman show, Aurora’s "Thrown Me on the Burnpile and Light Me Up" goes all out on technical elements. Elizabeth Jarrett’s set contains a huge, steel-bound pile of junk in the upstage recess of the black box space, with circular decking in two tiers in front of it, encircled by marsh grass. Telegraph poles appear on either side of the stage and audience, with strings of mismatched lights strung between them. Maranda Debusk’s lighting scheme throws in all sorts of effects, often accompanied by snippets of Jake K. Harbour’s sound design to set a scene and/or set a mood.

That’s not to say that this technical overload is all for the good. Cody Russell’s props don’t make for a very convincing burnpile, with electronics as evident as wood in the steel-bound burnpile upstage. And the circular decking intrudes into the three-sided audience space, with little space for audience members to squeeze past attendees in the front row. Even the immediacy of the action has its drawbacks, with Taylor M. Dooley’s teeth-baring grin and energetic intensity at the start coming across like a performance gauged for a far larger auditorium.

It doesn’t take long for Ms. Dooley to win us over, though. Aside from her narration, she portrays a fourth-grader who works as a secretary for her father, a pro bono defense attorney in capital cases for the local trash and crackers who commit crimes along the Florida-Georgia-Alabama state line. With terrific changes of expression, gesture, and stance, she also portrays everyone else in the anecdotes that make up the play. Her energy and commitment are a joy to behold.

Rachel Parish has directed the show to be split into eight sections, and at the culmination of each Ms. Dooley lights one of a group of eight cylinder candles and lanterns that are grouped on the upper tier at the start. She places the lanterns on the telegraph poles and the candles in various positions on the decking and burnpile. This movement, of course, is accompanied by music and dimmed lighting. It’s atmospheric and gives Ms. Dooley a little break from emoting, but it’s a little artificial in effect.

When Ms. Dooley nearly dissolves into tears at the end, it also seems artificial. Not the acting; Ms. Dooley is splendid in that regard. It’s that the dramatic movement hasn’t led sufficiently in that direction. The content of the play is profane and funny and sometimes disturbing, but the resilience that the father of Ms. Dooley’s character has instilled in her would suggest a more stoic outlook at the conclusion. Still and all, Taylor M. Dooley, in her T-shirt and shredded jeans designed by Cole Spivia, makes this play an affecting tour de force. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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