Mad Props

Anger is a gift that Brandon Ladd Burkey wants to share.

Much like the characters in the Eric Bogosian play subUrbia, which Burkey directs, the Valley transplant (by way of L.A.) is fed up with the status quo.

"I believe that what we need here in the Valley is a new standard of what 'theater' actually is," says Burkey, who's preparing for subUrbia's opening night on Sunday, May 15, at Zoë's Kitchen in central Phoenix. "Theater, as a concept, in its very roots, is about shared experience. Theater should push the envelope and take chances. And the audience needs to risk -- with a capital R -- right there along with the actors."

So it is that Burkey, along with producer Jim Colletti -- whose newly formed production company, The Experience, is staging subUrbia -- presents a play that satisfies Burkey's idealism: a story of the "bitter rage and frustration" of a group of troubled youth who "desperately search for meaning in their lives while drinking beer in front of the local 7-Eleven."

While Bogosian's play is more than 10 years old, Burkey believes subUrbia's hot-button issues -- bigotry, alienated youth, drug and alcohol abuse -- continue to hit close to home.

Of course, the 7-Eleven clerk's "Middle Eastern" appearance -- and the racial tension created by the kids -- has a lot to do with it.

"Let's talk about some of the racial tension, specifically against Middle Easterners, here in our very own Arizona," Burkey says. "What about the gas station attendant that was shot to death just days after 9/11 in retaliation for the [Twin] Towers? And he wasn't even Middle Eastern, or Islamic!"

Like the kids in the play, Burkey's rage is anything but nomadic -- it does have a target.

"Theater isn't for the weak. It's tough, life-changing stuff," he says. "I'm not doing this because I want to be liked. I'm trying to help wake people up."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Joe Watson