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Burning Doors

From 23 critic and 8 member reviews
Members say: Intense, Relevant, Edgy, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

About the show

Belarus Free Theatre and Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina come to La MaMa in a searing performance on how art persists under oppression. More…

Where do you belong when your government suppresses your basic right to expression? What do you do when your government imprisons you for making art? How would you survive one of the most brutal prison systems in the world? Through the prism of persecuted artists who will not be silenced, 'Burning Doors' reveals how artists living under dictatorship illuminate the knife-edge of complacency in democratic societies reminding us of the true cost of freedom and dangers of inertia.

Front Row Center

"The play focuses on the mental, physical, and spiritual torture of prison and the various methods used to break one down...’Burning Doors’ is intense and profoundly physical alternative theatre...The performers are strong in mind, voice, and body...It is an extremely moving and relevant piece of theatre. It is not for the faint of heart...This work is important...A visceral and intellectual evening you will not forget." Full Review


“The play must be seen and supported...Blasting us with vital truths, such political theater empowers us to change. Because of the performers’ amazing soulful energy, ‘Burning Doors’ enlightens, inspires, enthralls, provokes...This production should receive an extension because of its themes, its currency, its sheer power, its inspiration for us to uphold human dignity and the freedom of our souls in the face of injustice...This fabulous show is innovative theater at its best.” Full Review

Stage Buddy

"Moving, brilliant, sometimes terrifying, sometimes devastating...This is theatre at its deepest core, a shriek of pain, the smell of sweat, the text that both thrills you and loses you all in a moment. Don’t miss this if you love to be a part of something...It’s work, I’ll admit, but through it all we relive major events in the lives of prisoners of political war. It’s work but the payoff is huge...The images are stunning...Be Brave. Go and see 'Burning Doors.'” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"This dazzling company not only acts, but also dances and performs astonishing acrobatic feats to dramatize the stories...The result is a series of vivid, arresting images that will haunt you...For the spoken dialogue, Khalezin has masterfully drawn Dostoevsky’s novels...Such displays of artistic heroism and perseverance are humbling for those of us who take our artistic freedoms for granted...BFT is an abiding inspiration for all who cherish those freedoms." Full Review

The New York Times

“The astonishment of 'Burning Doors' — conceived and staged by the troupe founders and artistic directors (in exile), Khalezin and Koliada — is its ability to translate political rage and impotence into an art of indirection that is often as complex as it is powerful...An open-ended portrait of both the sociology and psychology of the artist as rebel in Eastern Europe...‘Burning Doors’ is from the friction of artists as arsonists — in motion, at war and determined to scorch." Full Review

New York Theater

"Arresting, arousing, athletic and anarchic...Sometimes assaultive, sometimes amusing, always intriguing collage of the political and the theatrical, with juxtapositions that can be jarring...A full half hour of 'Burning Doors' is given over to a visceral physical theater of heightened violence...Two of the actresses slap each other silly. One hangs from the neck by a rope...These are all surely metaphors. But they also help make a literally spectacular theatrical experience." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"'Burning Doors' holds up a magnifying glass to reality and sheds a brutally honest yet sympathetic light on three radical artists who have been treated like terrorists...Although much of the violence is represented in an almost poetic way, the brutality of what takes place assaults your senses and transports you to the prison cells of the world: piss, sweat, and cinders from the burning doors, along with songs about freedom bursting from every corner." Full Review


"The show is performed with high energy, though each story feels like a mixed bag of styles that aren't always cohesive. Still, the vitality of the subject matter shines through, especially now...Transitionally, it's a little difficult for the audience to figure out what's going on — the actors alternate various roles without much change in costumes and demeanor...The most essential piece of political theater New York has seen in a long, long time." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"This is a smart, smoldering, physically brutal piece of theater...A slowly building, ultimately stunning exploration of the Russian regime’s oppression of artists. For American audiences, 'Burning Doors' is a kind of exposé. It’s also a demonstration of the artist’s inextinguishable freedom in the face of a kind of tyranny that most of us have no real means to comprehend...The show is a painful and purposeful test of its performers’ endurance." Full Review

Diandra Reviews it All

“One of the most intense plays you will see...There is not much fluidity to 'Burning Doors.' Instead it is a series of scenes reflective and critical of how society defines things such as freedom, intellectualism, and 'us vs them.' Overall, it is not an easy watch nor a quiet one, but it was never meant to be...From writing to acting, 'Burning Doors' is clearly about igniting resistance...'Burning Doors' is for 'the smart: who wish to become wise.'” Full Review


"Keeping track of who is playing who and what each highly stylized moment is supposed to represent can be a bit confusing....If the people and issues referenced in 'Burning Doors' are not exactly familiar to Americans watching, there is still a great emotional impact to be felt just from the realization that, upon returning home, the brave artists participating in this piece can, at any time, be in the position of the tortured prisoners they play." Full Review

The Knockturnal

“’Burning Doors’ is a determined piece, but not a stern one. It is not designed to be terrifying. But it is traumatic. It is clinical and nonorganic...The aesthetics here are just right. The writing is wry and uniquely Russian...The latter portion of the performance is rare- intense scenes of torture...The takeaway of this work is the lack of effect prison has on the bottom line of these individuals and those countering society.” Full Review


“A theatrical collage that depicts political oppression in Russia...Its pacing periodically lags. It’s uneven in totality but there are quite compelling portions...Mr. Khalezin’s precise direction and Bridget Fiske and Maryia Sazonava’s vigorous choreography result in often arresting stage pictures...’Burning Doors’ is a fitfully effective work of agitprop for a noble cause that’s stimulating, though imperfectly realized.” Full Review

Victoria Sadler

for a previous production “‘Khalezin and Kaliada have cleverly juxtaposed these harrowing scenes with more sarcastic, light-hearted touches…The contrast works perfectly and keeps the audience engaged. But the second half sees even these brief light(er) touches stripped away…Instead we are given an impressive and quite remarkable piece of physical theatre that has the company exploring imprisonment and freedom…‘Burning Doors’ is powerful stuff. Its visceral anger and sense of injustice hits you like a truck." Full Review

Sydney Morning Herald

for a previous production “A fiery work of protest theatre that fuses brutality and poetry, philosophy and irreverent satire…Towards the end, the piece is dominated by savage physical theatre: disorienting incarnations of torture, bodily ruin, cycles of violence, punctuated by the rousing beauty of Russian and Belarusian folk song. 'Burning Doors' is theatre as bracing, intelligent, and visceral protest. These performers know that freedom must be fought for.” Full Review

A Younger Theatre

for a previous production “This is in many ways an extraordinary show, every bit as noisy, taboo-busting and brutal to behold as you could want…BFT reaffirm their unmatched abilities as physical performers…In intellectual ambition, too, the show is hardly lacking…The problem of course, comes in trying to pack everything into a single show…These themes require greater examination and perhaps their own shows to be done justice to…Most people will come away from the way cheered by such a bracing call to arms.” Full Review

Time Out London

for a previous production "The harsh, sometimes absurdist theatricality of the staging becomes a discomforting analogue for the ritualized humiliation and control employed by the Russian authorities...‘Burning Doors’ is too long and baggily structured; clumsy in places. But two Russian officials trying to understand artistic dissent while taking a a sharp splash of pitch-black humor. And ‘Burning Doors’ moves effectively from this provocation to the agony and defiance of its final, almost wordless scenes." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production “The play becomes increasingly dependent on passages of charade, gymnastics, and acrobatics…But while reduction to dumbness is initially a resonant metaphor in a piece about censorship, the wordlessness is so prolonged that it becomes progressively less eloquent. At its strongest, the show suggests Pinter resurrected in Minsk. At its weakest, it feels like an uneasy attempt to stage an armistice between the opposing forces of text-based and physical theatre.” Full Review

The Upcoming (UK)

for a previous production “A disturbing and challenging piece of theatre featuring a series of striking tableaux…The section dealing with Maria Alyokhina is especially poignant for the presence onstage of the former prisoner herself...The play is ultimately stirring and disturbing, with a vitally important message that it wishes to remind people of, though many may find the piece a little too abstract at times to fully appreciate it.” Full Review

The Australian

for a previous production "Good old-fashioned revolutionary art. It is purposeful, ardent and agitational. In style, it is direct, intelligible and blunt-force. The performers and performances are heroic...'Burning Doors 'isn’t so much anarchic as messy and inconsistent. It badgers rather than persuades. It would rather destroy the joint than improve it...'Burning Doors' is political art turned into calculated exhibitionism. It might galvanize the faithful but it won’t win any converts." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

for a previous production “There is more expression than information on offer; I longed for some explanation and history. And yet there are magnetic moments: terrifying and haunting and sometimes wordless. As when a woman is bungeed high up above the stage stretched out like a starfish…Or when, at the end, a single lightbulb is swung around the stage amid darkness. A good deed in a naughty world.” Full Review

What's On Stage (UK)

for a previous production “A forceful, intense excavation of freedom, of control and of the right to protest…As the piece progresses it becomes increasingly and relentlessly physical and ‘Burning Doors’ itself becomes an act of endurance…It is grueling to watch but after the first half, ‘Burning Doors’ becomes too abstract to feel relevant. It is a pity: several of the images conjured up are shocking. The show is admirable and real and often enlightening, but it is also muddled and willfully obscure where it needn't be.” Full Review

The Stage (UK)

for a previous production “Brims with urgency and anger but fails to find any lasting articulacy…There are numerous frustrating obstacles to overcome before one can begin to appreciate ‘Burning Doors,’ rapid surtitles,...dissonant tonal shifts, and impenetrable streams of garbled pop psychology among them. Underneath all that, there are glimpses of authentic comment on the ethics, obligations, and taboos surrounding...protest and unjust political imprisonment. But you have to really dig to find them.” Full Review

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Physical

See it if You want to see vibrant, political theater.

Don't see it if You want a clear, easy to follow narrative show that makes you feel good.

Absorbing, Epic, Great staging, Intense, Relevant

See it if physical theatre and performance art are your jam, and you're looking for a whirlwind show that barely lets you breathe.

Don't see it if you're looking for a traditional straight play and simple/linear narrative.

Masterful, Profound, Relevant, Edgy, Intense

See it if You want to have your mind blown by this very physical, intense exploration of what it means to be free and the courage to fight for it.

Don't see it if some of the sounds and lights and nudity offend you.

Also My mind was blown!! 8 actors in amazing physical shape perform Cirque ... Read more Read less

Intense, Profound, Refreshing, Resonant, Absorbing

See it if you want to see powerful, impactful political art and learn about Belarusian and Russian injustices on artists.

Don't see it if you don't like experimental theatre. The show is very physical and the content is at times hard to swallow. Important to see though.

Intense, Thought-provoking, Impassioned troupe, Fearless, politically committed performers

See it if you want to see a strong example of necessary, provocative and politically "dangerous" theatre from Belarus

Don't see it if you aren't interested in theatre as witness to political repression, or don't believe theatre can/should be a vehicle for resistance

Also It's rare for Americans to see performers whose investment and belief ... Read more Read less

Relevant, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Edgy, Raunchy

See it if You're into experimental theater and free speech and the plight of political prisoners is important to you.

Don't see it if You're not into experimental theater, nudity or violence in the theater.

Also Worth seeing but understand that the point is to convey some of what i... Read more Read less

Profound, Intense, Edgy, Thought-provoking

See it if You don’t get disturbed by watching the political rage & the horrible side effects of its resistance

Don't see it if You can’t take intense torture scenes

During previews
Relevant, Riveting, Intense, Must see, Edgy

See it if you like physical, honest, powerful theatre; if you're not afraid of intense and relevant subject matter (and nudity)

Don't see it if you can't handle honest intense real-life theatre about political abuse; if nudity makes you uncomfortable; if you only like light theatre

Also so gripping, powerful, intense. while inspired by real-life events in ... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (15)