In Real Life

burn_2Bullying is such a horrific act of destruction of power imbalance that so many school-age children have experienced as well as taken their lives due to the detrimental effects of verbal, social and physical bullying. Regrettably, in the world we live in social media can make you or destroy you in a matter of one click of a keystroke and ruin your future.

Playwright of Steppenwolf for Young Adults (SYA) Philip Dawkins the writer of "The Burn" takes us in the stomping ground of bullying in a high school set in Chicago. A modern-day ‘Crucible' from one of Arthur Miller's plays where we get to explore many identities that are being cultivated within our youth on a daily basis and wherein this magnetic play the characters use social media for different purposes to survive in high school.

In this interesting play, we saw the effects of how the person who is being bullied becomes the one inadvertently the bully and the one who would take the unjust fall for their actions to protect themselves. Dawkins gives us an insight into the severity of being bullied in a private sector where when it's done when no one could see what was taking place versus shaming someone on an online platform. 

burn_3Relentless ring leader Tara (Birgundi Baker) has the power to influence her friends who to like and dislike at their high school. Mercedes Phoebe (González) is the target of Tara's next quest to humiliate and bring down by any means necessary because she is an outsider. When a high school production of ‘Crucible' forces them together the hostility of their differences comes to a screeching head with a nasty hashtag to follow.

Poor Mercedes who had been through a lot in the past few years is dealing with the loss of her brother due to violence at her previous school and her classmates making fun of her religious beliefs of being a Christian. Tara waste no time in convincing her friends Andi (Nina Ganet) and Shauna (Dyllan Rodrigues-Miller) that Mercedes is a freak. However, Shauna sees Mercedes yes as different but as a good person, whereas Andi the lesbian basketball player has no problem jumping on board with any of Tara's antics to bring Mercedes down off of her moral pedestal.  

burn_1-1So what happens to a teacher and his students when bullying goes too far, and now the production of Crucible becomes a real live witch- hunt? Teacher Erik (Erik Hellman) knows there is a problem with one of his smartest students; he knows who the ringleader is that is taunting Mercedes and he just wants the bullying to stop.

Erik tries to confront the ruthless Tara and tell her that what she is doing is wrong and hurtful, but Tara feels that she can hide behind free speech (a law invented just for her) and anonymity that she can say and write whatever she deems to be true. Tara is so used to bullying people that she tries to do it when she finds Erik's sobriety coin and keeps it as leverage to flex her power over him before ousting him publicly to his colleagues and her peers.    

Social media allows us to interact with the world effortlessly and for every action, there is a reaction, and Director Devon de Mayo guides us through this magnificently with the entrancing set designed by Courtney O'Neill. Where we get to see the online world visually on the big screen and how it becomes (In) Real (Life): a timeline and a breeding ground to engage in cruel, aggressive, obscure acts.

However, there is a generation gap for older people viewing this play, but this is a must needed play to witness how a few likes and comments on social media can set off a mob reaction that can spiral into terrible consequences.

Although I oppose bullying and believe we should accept each other regardless to our personal, spiritual and religious views I, Rick McCain, must admit that I was a little troubled that the ultimate evil in this play came from someone that confess her belief in God; which I found offensive to Christians.

We recommend bridging the gap between the young and old and that you come out and learn more about bullying and social media issues and how quickly they can escalate.

The cast includes

Birgundi Baker (Tara)

Nina Ganet (Andi)

Phoebe González (Mercedes)

Erik Hellman (Erik)

Dyllan Rodrigues-Miller (Shauna)


Steppenwolf for Young Adults Presents the World Premiere of

The Burn

Written by Philip Dawkins

Directed by Devon de Mayo

Now Playing Through March 10, 2018

Filed under: ChicagoNow

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