Lawrence Harbison brings you up to date with what’s hot and what’s not in New York. This week, Larry tells you about A LIFETIME BURNING, THE COLUMBINE PROJECT and AFTER LUKE/WHEN I WAS GOD.

Primary Stages, having announced that this season they will present only plays by women, has opened up with Cusi Cram’s A Lifetime Burning, a fascinating drama about a woman who has achieved fast fame with a memoir about her underprivileged childhood, growing up as part Inca. Trouble is, it’s all a fabrication. The author’s sister arrives at her deluded sister’s apartment to confront her about the lies in the book, about which sis is in extreme denial. During this confrontation, we are taken back in time and shown scenes between the hard-driving literary agent who put the publishing deal together, and between the author and a Latino man with whom she had a torrid affair.

I found it hard to believe, even though this play is based on a true story, that a top literary agent and top publisher could be so easily duped, probably because the author of the book is so clearly disturbed; but the core of the play, the battle between the two sisters, is forcibly handled and ultimately won me over.

The Columbine Project at Actors Temple Theatre, written and directed by Paul Anthony Storiale, is clearly inspired by The Laramie Project, which dealt with the death of Matthew Shepherd and its effect on the town of Laramie, Wyoming. Sturiale has created his play from published statements, news reports and newscasts of the tragic shooting spree at Columbine High School. While this is not quite as powerful, or as well done, as was The Laramie Project, it nevertheless succeeds in illuminating the context in which the Columbine shootings occurred, as well as the disturbed minds of the shooters. Storiale’s cast is excellent – particularly, Artie Ahr and Justin Mortelliti, who play the two youths who killed thirteen of their classmates and one teacher before killing themselves.

The production has a somewhat bare-bones feeling in its technical aspects – almost no set, a handful of lighting instruments –which makes the play seem more rudimentary than it is; but I was moved by the telling of this sad story, and recommend the play to one and all.

Irish Rep has a terrific double bill of one act plays by Cónal Creedon on view, After Luke/When I was God, performed by three amazing actors. After Luke is a Cain/Abel tale of two brothers. One is a hard-working auto mechanic, the other a ne’er-do-well who wants their Dadda to sell his land to developers. What ensues is a battle of wills between the two brothers. When I was God is about a demanding, athletics-obsessed father and a son eager to win his love via sports success.

Gary Gregg and Michael Mellamphy are in both plays, and they are superb, as is Colin Lane who plays the rather slow Dadda in the first play. This one is terrific. Don’t miss it.

A LIFETIME BURNING. Primary Stages, 59 E. 59th St.
TICKETS: 212-279-4200
THE COLUMBINE PROJECT. Actors Temple Theatre, 339 W. 47th St.
TICKETS: 212-239-6200.
AFTER LUKE/WHEN I WAS GOD. Irish Rep. 132. W. 22nd St.
TICKETS: 212-727-2737

“It requires a certain largeness of spirit to give generous appreciation to large achievements. A society with a crabbed spirit and a cynical urge to discount and devalue will find that one day, when it needs to draw upon the reservoirs of excellence, the reservoirs have run dry.”

—– George F. Will