Burn: A puzzling ghost story - Hamilton City Magazine Skip to main content
Celebrating all things Hamilton / Welcome Message
Arts + Culture

Burn: A puzzling ghost story

The Players' Guild of Hamilton takes on psychological thriller written by Ottawa-area playwright for season-ending production.

Closing out the 2023-2024 season at The Players’ Guild of Hamilton is the psychological thriller Burn, which has been called “highly suspenseful” by Onstage Ottawa. Weaving together a ghost story with a mystery, the play provides unexpected twists as its characters experience increasing feelings of dread.

In Burn, a group of old friends gathers to reconnect, but a member is missing on this particular evening. Things haven’t been the same for Robert, Samira, and David since the death of Paul, who was a best-selling horror writer. Paul had also been close friends with Robert’s wife, Tara, another well-known novelist, who disappeared five years earlier. Robert has held on to hope that his wife is alive. As for Paul, he died a short time after reuniting with his estranged daughter Eve.

Tonight, Eve has asked to meet the three remaining friends for the first time, to carry out her father's last request. She has something to deliver. At first she seems friendly, but Robert, Samira, and David soon become ill at ease as Eve’s demeanour changes and disturbing details are revealed. The mood shifts, the tension mounts, and the evening unravels.

Vancouver theatre critic Jerry Wasserman has termed Burn "an entertaining and often compelling puzzle … (with) cleverness and intricacy.”

The Players’ Guild’s production is made up of the quartet of Peter Gruner (David), Ilene Elkaim (Samira), James Vezina (Robert), and Rebecca Durance-Hine (Eve). Director Matthew Willson says that his cast is “very strong. All four characters have very distinctive personalities.” He likens the performances to those of an professional, off-Broadway production.

Colleen Wray, Burn’s producer, also says the cast is “stellar,” and that “every role is integral to the development of the story.”

The cast of Burn, from left: James Vezina, Peter Gruner, Ilene Elkaim, Rebecca Durance Hine.
PHOTO: Lynne Jamieson

Wray has been involved at The Guild for a number of years. It’s a very busy time for her, as she was the stage manager for the first show on the playbill, Halfway There, and will take up that mantle once again in the fall for the first production of the 2024-2025 season, A Question of Justice

“Our next season has been announced and series tickets are available now,” she makes sure to note. The other productions next season are The Catering Queen, Tuesdays with Morrie, and The Savannah Sipping Society

Wray is hopeful that Burn will “showcase the talent and variety of plays The Guild has to offer, and entice our audiences to subscribe to our upcoming season.” She was particularly attracted to the concept of the play, and the fact that it was written by a Canadian, Ottawa-area playwright John Muggleton.

Muggleton’s professional career has so far spanned three decades. His official bio mentions he has received “multiple acting, directing and playwriting awards and is a recipient of the Audrey Ashley Award for longstanding dedication to the Ottawa theatre community.” He is a co-founder of the Ottawa Acting Company, manages Act Ottawa, a performing arts program, and is founder and artistic director at Kanata Acting Studio. Muggleton has also taught acting classes at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama.

Burn was Muggleton's first full -ength play as a playwright, and it was nominated by the Ottawa Capital Critics Circle for Best New Play in 2017. It has been staged in Canada, the United States, and the U.K. In 2022, a special, festival-length version of Burn was presented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it was shortlisted for the Carol Tambor Best at Fringe Award. Muggleton has also written An Act of Grace, as well as several historical plays for Parks Canada, all of which were well received.

As for the director, Willson is delighted at the opportunity to direct Burn, saying he’s been “dying to direct at the Players’ Guild for a number of years.”

“The Guild is like my temple; it’s where I’ve met long-lasting friends and honed my craft,” he explains. Willson has a passion to “create and collaborate,” and estimates he’s been involved in about a dozen productions “over the past 20 years.” He would like nothing more than to devote all his time to theatre, film, and TV projects.

While Wray hesitates to give too much away, she says that Willson “had a specific vision for the show and achieved it” through the talent of his cast as well as the efforts of stage manager David Faulkner-Rundle and his hard-working crew.  

Willson believes that Burn will have wide appeal, and hopes audiences will flock to The Players’ Guild before its season wraps up: “Any theatre goer who loves a good mystery and ghost stories” will find the play very entertaining.

Wray agrees: “It is full of suspense and will keep the audience on their toes. Anyone who enjoys puzzling out a mystery will enjoy it.”


Burn at The Players’ Guild of Hamilton, Inc.
80 Queen Street South, Hamilton, ON
Continues June 6, 7, 13, 14 & 15 at 8 p.m.
and June 8, 9 & 15 at 2 p.m.
Run time: approx. 90 minutes, no intermission
Tickets: $27
Visit www.playersguild.org or phone the box office: (905) 529-0284