Nancy Sasso Janis
‘Burning Desire,’ an original play written by Lou Diamond Phillips, blazed on the stage of Seven Angels Theatre this weekend for its world premiere. It is the latest in the over 40 world premieres that the theatre has produced in their 25 year history.
This very clever and equally funny piece stars the dreamy Mr. Phillips in the role of the devil (although he actually prefers to be called “Lucifer”) and his name alone may have been the reason why many of the ladies in the audience came out to the first matinee. What many might not have expected was a very talented “Adam and Eve” to back him up, two lithe dancers, “hellish” effects, and wonderful lighting that all added up to a great production. And yeah, Mr. Phillips is as dreamy as ever.
The Waterbury venue with the heavenly name boasts a bar named “The Devil’s Corner,” so all the songs with references to the devil that play before the performance feel right. Other well-chosen recorded music is woven into the two acts and add value. Richard Zavaglia served as both producer and director of his friend and partner’s play at Seven Angels. Mic Thompson was the choreographer for the devilish dancers.
The story follows the “burning desire” of a young couple, a modern day Adam and Eve named Andrew and Evan. Lucifer makes them fall in love and then interacts with them in disguise to wreck havoc in their love lives, all while trying to entice them to sell their souls to him for true love. I won’t spoil the ending but I will promise that you will enjoy watching the complications as they unfold.
Lou Diamond Phillips is known for his portrayal of Ritchie Valens in ‘La Bamba,’ the movie ‘The 33’ and one of my all-time favorite films ‘Stand and Deliver.’ He has enjoyed great success as an actor, director, writer and producer and received a Tony nomination for his role as the King of Siam in ‘The King and I.’ His incarnation of the evil one is very funny as he addresses the audience between and sometimes during the scenes. He is unabashedly trying to procure the souls of the onstage humans, but there is something about this devil that borders on endearing. He is devious and unrelenting, but always funny. One of my favorite scenes involved ping pong onstage quick changes as he played Evan’s mother having lunch with her daughter and Andrew’s guy friend playing football.
The lady Evan is played to perfection by Tara Franklin; the actress got her MFA from UCONN. Her guy Andrew is played well by Ryan Wesley Gilreath in his 7A debut. Sophie Lee Morris and Jackie Aitken dance beautifully as devilish minions.
There are three Matts on the design team. Scenic designer was Matt Iacozza, Matt Guminski designed that wonderful lighting and Matt Martin was in charge of the sound design. Daniel Husvar was the technical director.
By all accounts of those that have done the preshow press for ‘Burning Desire,’ Mr. Phillips is a kind and gracious gentleman of wonderful talent. Thank you to him and Mr. Zavaglia for bringing their show to Waterbury for its debut and congratulations to the head angel herself, artistic director Semina De Laurentis, on another hit.
Pictured: The cast of 'Burning Desire' Photos by Paul Roth for Seven Angels