A Beast/A Burden

glass half productions · Ages 18+ · world premiere · United States of America

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Review by anonymous

What I liked

Though the ‘history’ of this piece is, at best, a interpretation, I was most enamored with how much the production got ‘right’ in terms of Chris’s mannerisms, his spirit, and the way in which he approached his art. The production is minimal and stripped down, which is honestly what Chris always seemed to be striving for, particularly in those early days – to get a point across with as little ‘pizzazz’ as possible. The actor who portrayed Chris is strikingly similar in physicality, but also managed to turn that ‘character’ into his own, not a simple task given the subject. There was one particular moment, as the actor was explaining a forthcoming video presentation, when the similarities became so striking that I had to take a moment. And, though I would not call this an ‘accurate’ presentation of Barbara in the grand sense, it was certainly well-executed by the actress and a fine representation of that turbulent time. The cast, on the whole, did fine justice to the remarkable pieces represented here.

What I didn't like

Frankly, I would have enjoyed more characters that actually existed during that time. There was such a rich and eccentric assortment of characters surrounding Chris at the time, many of whom are still about Los Angeles, and it would have lent a bit more historical accuracy to the piece. But this is also a work of the stage and I understand that and was shockingly at ease with the liberties that were taken.

My overall impression

I am not a routine theatre-goer, probably not having seen a stage work in over ten-years. But I knew Chris Burden loosely over the years, particularly from his time at Pomona, and a friend of mine informed me of the existence of this particular piece. It was a fine reminder of just how important Chris’s work was to the art work, at the time and today. If you’re a Burden die-hard, you might find some of the liberties curious, but I suppose if you’re going into a ‘historical dramatization’ (as the production calls itself) expecting an entirety of facts, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. I was not disappointed. I laughed, I was moved, and it made me fondly remember my friend.

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