The Art of Burning – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

If you break a vase, you need a tube of Gorilla Glue to reassemble the pieces. For a broken lamp, often electric tape will do the job. If your fence falls, grab a hammer and nails and wooden boards to fix the problem. What happens if it’s your family that is broken and, like Humpty Dumpty, can’t be put together again. In a world premiere production, Hartford Stage is exhibiting one such family in the midst of a crisis in Kate Snodgrass’s “The Art of Burning” until Sunday, March 26.

Divorce is never easy and rarely amicable, especially if there are children involved. For Patricia, an artist, she feels betrayed by her husband Jason’s infidelity and the thought of revenge is never far from her mind. Her concern for their daughter Elizabeth, a vulnerable Clio Contogenis, only fifteen, is central to her concerns. Have her parents prepared her for life or failed to make her equipped to handle her daily challenges? Before Patty, a sincerely questioning Adrianne Krstansky, will sign the divorce papers she demands answers of all those involved.

Jason’s good friend and attorney Mark, a conciliatory Michael Kaye, is trying to be helpful but along the way he learns some disturbing facts about his own marriage to Laura Latreille’s Charlene and the lies she may have been feeding him. Are any of us who we appear to be? Also central to the plot is Vivia Font’s Katya who is the catalyst stirring up the marital pot and what of the news she is sharing with Rom Barkhordar’s Jason about their relationship? As if this were not drama enough, in the midst of the proceedings, Elizabeth disappears. Is Patty hiding her or has she taken a page from the Greek tragedy she saw last night and done something unforgivable to Beth? Melia Bensussen, Artistic Director of Hartford Stage, directs this intense drama with care as a mother reawakens her responsibilities to her daughter and works to protect her from the world.

For tickets ($30 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and select Wednesdays. Check for masked performances and post-show conversations.

Capture the different points of view, depending on where you are standing on Luciana Stecconi’s intriguing lighted floor set, as you take this roller-coaster ride of emotions and eruptions and try to keep your own precarious balance.