By Barbara J. Garshman; Directed by Suzanne Karpinski
Part of the 2018 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 10.20.18
FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street
by Sarah Gallegos on 10.14.18
BOTTOM LINE: A dramatization of real-life accounts of soldiers struggling to fit back into U.S. society after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
After Burn begins with a recording of George W. Bush announcing that America would be invading Iraq to defeat Saddam Hussein. I was immediately transported back to 2003, an effect that was slightly diminished when (at least on the night I saw it) the recording played again—was this an accident or a choice? Or perhaps this is commentary on the United States' invasion of Iraq—was it an accident or a choice?
In Barbara J. Garshman’s debut play, we follow three U.S. soldiers who have returned back home after spending time in Iraq. All three soldiers, Colon (Peter Celos), Mathis (Michele Quintero) and their sergeant Graziano (Dan Soloman), are struggling with their own demons. Mathis, who joined the Army as a way to escape a dangerous home life, is now trying to follow her dreams, emboldened by her time spent as a soldier. Meanwhile, Graziano and Colon are both trying to fit back into family life. Colon is heartbroken to see how his wife and child have moved on without him, and Graziano cannot talk to his wife about a traumatic incident that happened in Iraq, which creates a rift between the two. As they rejoin civilian society, the three veterans all try to help fellow soldier Scooter Lee (Leif Steinert), who was gravely injured in Afghanistan, and his young and easily spooked wife Mandy Rose Lee (an expressive Ashley Coia) as they adjust to their new postwar life.
Playwright Barbara J. Garshman notes that After Burn is based on interviews she did with soldiers returning from deployment in Iraq in 2005. This makes sense, as every character has a rich and detailed backstory. However, by trying to fit all four soldiers’ stories into 70 minutes, we are not able to fully invest in each character’s struggles, which is a shame. It is great to see, in Gladys Mathis, a female veteran. I wish After Burn spent more time with her story, which is the most underdeveloped of the three.
Costume designer Magdalen Zinky, while inconsistent, successfully creates believable facial scarring on some of the soldiers. But director Suzanne Karpinski's pacing is slowed down due to clunky scene changes, which we watch the actors execute under dim blue light. After Burn may not be the slickest production at the Fringe, but it is a valiant attempt to shine a light on a group of people who have been largely forgotten or overlooked.
(After Burn plays at FringeHUB, 685 Washington Street at Charles Street, through October 20, 2018. Meet at the SILVER FringeNYC flag. The running time is 1 hour 30 minutes. Performances are Fri 10/12 at 7, Sun 10/14 at 1, Wed 10/17 at 7, Fri 10/19 at 4:45, Sat 10/20 at 9:15. There is no late seating at FringeNYC. Tickets are $22 (plus $3.69 ticketing fee), $16 (plus $3.51) for seniors, and are ONLY available online at fringenyc.org. For more information visit afterburntheplay.org.)
After Burn is by Barbara J. Garshman. Directed by Suzanne Karpinski. Lighting Design by Cate Digirolamo. Sound Design by Jessica Hart. Costume Design by Magdalen Zinky. Stage Manager is Rebecca Schafer.
The cast is Alicia Benavides, Ashley Coia, Nadine Earl Carey, Peter Celos, Fouad Farran, Maria Victori Martinez Michele Quintero, Dan Soloman, and Leif Steinert.