With successful productions in London, L.A. and San Francisco, it's only natural for people to start wondering when David Grier's play, Burning Blue will make its way to New York. Co-producers George DeMarco and Brent Peek are hoping to make that happen in early fall. According to DeMarco, Peter Neufeld has also joined the team as a production consultant.
To that end, the company is doing another reading of the show, this one at the Westside Theatre (407 West 43 St.) in Manhattan, Mar. 15. Tickets are free but by invitation only.
"We're raising money to do an Off-Broadway production "no later than September," DeMarco, 41, had told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 27). "We're hoping to raise $650,000 for a 299-399 seat house."
Featured in the Westside reading are Robert LuPone (A Chorus Line), Michael Hayden (currently in Far East), Robert Bogue (the Roundabout's Three Sisters), Martin McDougall (the L.A. and London mountings of Burning Blue), Christa Kirby, Melissa Bowen, J.C. Montgomery and UK actor Andrew Halliday.
A previous reading for 225 people was held at Off-Broadway's Westside Theatre on Monday, Jan. 25. That reading had mostly the same cast. The play concerns four navy buddies, one of whom is suspected of being gay. "It becomes a witch-hunt," explains DeMarco, "but the story is really about friendship and being true to yourself. I don't in any respect see it as a `gay play.' Especially since I'd rather produce a show with greater appeal than that, simply from a business standpoint. But this spoke to me so deeply. It was so well-drawn."
Burning Blue premiered in 1995 at the tiny King's Head Theatre in Islington. The public took note, and Burning Blue transferred to the renowned Haymarket Theatre on the West End, and then to the Ambassadors, ultimately garnering Olivier Awards for lighting and sound design. Since then it has played at L.A. Court Theatre and San Francisco's Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, as well as in South Africa.
Playwright Greer is an American. He grew up in a military family and spent nearly seven years in the Navy, training to fly helicopters, then handling Navy public relations in New York City. Burning Blue grew out of his disenchantment over the Navy's treatment of alleged homosexuals. A close friend, the son of an admiral, was subjected to 36 straight hours of interrogation before he resigned from the Navy to avoid tarnishing his father's reputation. "I also learned of four or five other cases of Navy personnel being raked over the coals by the Naval Investigative Service," he said. "The irony is amazing: that freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by the Constitution, and defended by our military, is something that gays can't even enjoy themselves. It's hard to fathom."
Producer DeMarco, whose background is in business and accounting, intends Blue to be his first major commercial production. "I've done Off-Off-Broadway and not-for-profit theatre, so there's a reason my company is called `At Long Last Productions,'" joked DeMarco. He then added, "I saw this show in London four years ago and absolutely fell in love with it. I'd seen five plays in four days, all of which were West End productions. The last night in town, a friend gave me a ticket to this show all the way in Islington, in the back of a bar. I didn't even want to go. Yet I was just totally moved by the story."
-- By David Lefkowitz