This is Our Youth
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., July 20, 2001
This is Our Youth: And They're Not Kidding Around
Hyde Park Theatre,
through July 28
Running Time: 2 hrs
This is our youth. Yes, it is: Not necessarily the "youth of today," although it could be that, too, with only a few temporal signifiers (the songs on the radio, Ronald Reagan still president) to suggest otherwise. This youth, in other words, is ours, possessively: yours and mine, the things we went through when we were in our early 20s and had little idea what the hell we were going to do to achieve our goals -- if we had any defined goals in the first place.
Of course, unlike the characters in this Kenneth Lonergan play from Saints and Poets Theatre, we might not have been quite so heavily into drugs at the time, and only an even smaller number of us may have dealt drugs so heavily; but there we were. Coping with the fallout from having grown up in dysfunctional families, tangled in friendships that were often abusive reiterations of those families, making unsure attempts at more intimate connections with strangers or friends who complemented our sexual preferences. And still not quite beaten down by the inexorable cudgel of Life Beyond Adolescence. Remember all that? Playwright Lonergan remembers, and he doesn't cut any corners in this hyperrealistic story of two young men dealing with the burden of the $15,000 one of them has ripped off from his father.
Director Justin Elliott doesn't cut any corners, either, pulling all he can from his actors and moving them naturally around the litter-strewn, dope-saturated apartment in which the action unfolds. Ryan King is Warren, a fucked-up schlemiel of a kid trying to get by in a world he seems too emotionally clumsy for. Tristan Colton is Warren's friend Dennis, if you stretch the meaning of "friend" to encompass "self-obsessed, manipulative shitheel," and he's moving so much pot and coke out of his apartment that he could qualify for a small business loan.
The actors bring these guys to pure, unfiltered life, every twitch and slouch, every blame and whine and burst of cheap violence. Colton provides an impressive performance, but he can't quite match the nervous intensity, the sheer naturalness of King's Warren. And when Warren meets Jessica, and the two of them are not sure exactly how much they like or trust each other but they kind of want to get horizontal anyway, and they're involved in that whole uncomfortable pre-coitus dance? Devon G. Whitley plays Jessica as if she'd learned the part through osmosis, as if what you're seeing onstage is what a fly on the wall would have seen where this story must have occurred.
The whole show is convincing like that.
This Saints and Poets company, pretty damned new on the scene and here staking a major claim to legitimacy, work hard at their craft and they're lousy with talent. If these guys are our youth, the geezers among us can rest easy: The kids are much more than all right.