Burning My Dreams to the Ground
nytheatre.com review by Josh Sherman
March 27, 2008
The throughline of Gregory Marcel's new one-man show, Burning My Dreams To The Ground, details how Marcel somehow manages to self-destruct any success that he achieves, either by accident or his own volition. Once again, he has proven himself correct—because this one-man show is so hilarious that it is a shame that it is already shut down! With any luck, someone will give the very talented Marcel another shot with, because it certainly deserves a longer run.
Marcel proves himself a gifted storyteller and self-deprecating comedian who barrels through his partial autobiography in approximately one hour. He bounces around the stage on topics ranging from middle school horrors, to forced family cruise vacations where he becomes a reluctant karaoke star, to a nightmarish high school affair gone wrong—no topic is forbidden. But Marcel keeps things light and never dwells on any one subject in a maudlin way, and thankfully never overplays his comedic hand.
Directed with alacrity by Nicholas Gray, Marcel shows his knack as an actor by fully inhabiting the characters in his life that he portrays to us. This keeps the monologue fresh and makes us feel like the conflicts are happening in real-time. Marcel's comic timing is gentle when necessary and he can also push the tempo with some rapid-fire delivery; good work again by both men to get the most out of the material. The only thing out of place in the evening is a jungle gym onstage that seems unjustified—though Marcel and Gray make nice use of the additional level, it still sticks out.
The heart of Burning My Dreams To The Ground comes soon after Marcel gives up acting (for a time, obviously) to become, of all things, a flying trapeze instructor. During a very poignant vignette, he becomes a life coach, therapist, and teacher all in one to a heartbroken young woman who doesn't believe that she can swing on the trapeze. "But I'll fall," she says. To which Marcel replies, "Of course you will, now get up there and swing!" Marcel's piece uses his own rises and falls to justify dusting yourself off and getting back up off the floor. Wise words from a young man who needs to have Burning My Dreams To The Ground show off his talents for far longer than one short week.