It’s OK Not to Be OK: 5 reasons to see ‘Burning Boy’ at PNC Arts Annex



The Nerve (formerly Playground Theatre) debuts with an outstanding production of David West Read’s contemplative yet surprisingly humorous drama “The Dream of the Burning Boy,” continuing through Oct. 31 in the PNC Arts Annex.



In this timely story of sorrow, facing fears and connection, high school teacher Larry Morrow has been falling asleep at his desk and dreaming ever since the sudden death of Dane, his favorite student. As Dane’s sister and friends attempt to cope along with the entire school, Larry’s dreams intensify and a shocking secret is exposed.

Here are five reasons why you should see this quietly compelling play, excellently co-directed with great intimacy and character-conscious skill by Nerve co-founder Jenna Valyn and Nerve associate director A.J. Breslin.

The teacher consumed with grief and regret

Nerve co-founder Chris Hahn delivers one of his best and most emotional and mature performances as the troubled, tormented Larry, determined to brush grief aside instead of confiding in others for healing and support. Inhabiting his portrayal with a deceptive sense of authoritative calm masquerading deep pain (one striking moment finds him looking anguished when Larry hears the bell ring while awaiting his students), Hahn crafts an unforgettably heartbreaking journey.

A guidance counselor and a mom searching for clarity

Skyler McNeely and K.B. Scheiding, familiar faces from the Playground’s string of knockout productions, winningly return as easygoing guidance counselor Steve and Dane’s concerned mother Andrea. McNeely, in an understated, heartfelt portrayal, carries the entire school’s sense of shock on his shoulders, allowing the audience to better understand why Dane’s death is so difficult to fathom. Scheiding, only appearing in one scene, powerfully reveals the hurt and anger consuming Andrea as she seeks answers from Larry.

A sister trying to keep it together while walking in her brother’s legacy

Liz Lindon marvelously embodies the frustration, agitation, exhaustion and sadness of Dane’s complicated sister Rachel. As Rachel’s world feels like it’s crashing down around her as Dane’s legacy looms large, Lindon is the epitome of witty exasperation. The fantastic, teen-centric authenticity of Valyn and Breslin’s cast extends to the strong, moody portrayals of Connor Gray as Dane, Richard Yannotti as Kyle and Stephanie Johnson as Chelsea. John Hughes would be proud.

The ‘Schitt’s Creek’ connection

Read’s plays include “The Performers” and “The Great Pretender,” but he is perhaps best known as a writer and executive producer of the kooky TV comedy “Schitt’s Creek,” which swept the 2020 Emmys for its acclaimed final season. There’s no denying the dramatic weight of “Burning Boy,” but on the other hand, the comical sensibilities of “Schitt’s Creek” are apparent. For instance, when Rachel and Kyle catch up in the library, she tells him “I think you’re genetically programmed to piss me off.” Doesn’t that sound like David Rose?

A universal message worth heeding

At its core, “Burning Boy” is a moving, touching and thought-provoking testament to the importance of opening up and sharing one’s grief. It’s never too late to seek help and no one should have to suffer in silence. Seamlessly building on its risk-taking Playground foundation, the Nerve truly delivers a theatrical experience not to be missed.


What: “The Dream of the Burning Boy”

Where: PNC Arts Annex, 46 W. Second St., Dayton

When: Through Oct. 31; 7 p.m. Wednesday (Pay What You Can with talkback after the show); 7 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $22

Tickets: Call Dayton Live at 937-228-3630 or visit

FYI: The play, which is performed in 90 minutes without intermission, is rated PG-13 for language and patrons are reminded that it deals with death and grief. Also, patrons 12 and over attending performances at Dayton Live venues will be required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry. Masks must also be worn inside all Dayton Live venues for patrons 6 and over.



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