Boston Playwright's Burning Sheds Light on Gays in the Military

Quinn Banford ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
The café: a place of comfort, an escape from the wildness outside, a shop where moments are caught in a transition between point A and point B, and the setting for The Boston Playwrights’ production of Burning. Burning found itself among a crowd willing to relate to its ideas on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the military policy that ignores the honesty of homosexual expression. Through very strong characters and great writing, this play enveloped the pains of sexuality, whether the characters were straight or gay.
Cy Burns, the central character of Burning and played by Mal Malme, has experienced the turmoil of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and lashes out against the higher ups in the US Army. She does this through her blog, gaining respect from her online following. With a background story full of “mines” and difficulties (from a military past) that still weigh on her shoulders, she continues to fight for what she believes is the truth. The cafe is a kind of hub for the characters to exchange witty dialogue and to find comfort as though it were a home.
Rose (Jessica Webb) plays as the love interest for both Cy and Cole Noyes, a role that was stuck in this interesting sort of love triangle. She performed well as “the catch” of the play, but Rose was especially capable for a strong feminine self. Her portrayal was not of a giddy high school girl seeking a Romeo (or Juliet) type of romance; she was a young woman gathering her life together and was in the midst of her own maturity.
On the other end of things, we have Cole Noyes, who is played by Ian Michaels. Noyes walked into the coffee house holding the comedic charm of a shy tenth grader. He was the guy who might have been inspired by Woody Harrelson from Cheers. But instead of becoming a bartender, Noyes made his way through basic training, and finally landed a gig in the military. When onstage with Cy, Noyes’ performance was at his strongest. Together the tension buzzed between these two; Cy’s wit commanding the nervous Noyes’ to express himself in a humility that entertained the crowd.
The on stage intimacy between Noyes and Rose felt unnatural, when considering the power of the specific scene. Enthusiasm and wild romance was left afloat while an air of discomfort consumed both the actors and the audience. This might be disputed, however, if one would prefer to convince themselves that it was a director’s choice. Understandable, but when the curtains fell, some ‘thing’ was left unsaid between Noyes and Rose.
When all was said and done, the play made the audience aware of a different idea than “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The issues that gays encounter in the military were not only a legal barricade, but a social one as well. Now that the policy is gone, there is still work to be done. Having an accepting military, one that allows gay and straight patriots to express themselves, depends upon the society that breeds these men and women of valor. Burning reminds us that our country is not about the laws it makes, but about the people. That it is humanity that makes it a beautiful place.

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