Review: This is Our Youth

2014-09-11 11.18.15I’m bored with reviews! How about a show timeline instead?

Monday, 5:30 pm: I listen to last week’s episode of Maxamoo podcast, in which Isaac claims that This is Our Youth is one of the five best plays of the 1990s, and also one of the rare plays that’s just as much fun to read as it is to see. Based on this assessment, I get really excited about seeing the show Tuesday night (and a little embarrassed that I am not already familiar with it.)

Tuesday, 7:58 pm: My friends Karen, Rachel and I are told by the house manager at the Cort Theater to go across the street to the bathroom at the Chipotle, because we might not get through the line in time for the performance. And then we sat down behind tall people and had to crane our necks to see the center of the stage. Honestly, Thomas Lamb! What’s your problem with women and short people?

Tuesday, 8:07 pm: This is Our Youth begins. It’s a three-character play starring Michael Cera, well known to all of us as George Michael Bluth and a million other variations on that same role. His role of Warren is no different: he’s awkward, sweet, hesitant, and fumbling. Ungainly physicality and flawless comic timing. (You’ve seen Arrested Development. You’ve got the idea.) It also stars Kieran Culkin, who is dynamic, funny and likable as drug-dealing Dennis, Warren’s charismatic best friend.

Tuesday, 9:15 pm: At intermission, Rachel admits she’s having a bit of trouble connecting with the play. It’s about a young man (Mr. Cera) who has just been kicked out of his home, and in a fit of revenge has stolen $15,000 from his father. When he arrives at his friend Dennis’s (Mr. Culkin) apartment, they plot to try and get the money back (and to get Warren a bit of romance while they’re at it). But that’s just the plot, which isn’t really what this show is about. As the title indicates, this is really a piece about being young, wondering who you’ll be in the future, trying to connect, not knowing where to go or how to act, feeling aimless. For Rachel, this kind of rumination-as-drama wasn’t totally compelling; I can see why she thinks so. I’m a bit of a sucker for memory plays, however, and even though this isn’t precisely a memory play, it has many of the hallmarks of one. Right up my alley.

Tuesday, 10:15 pm: At the end of the show, both Karen and Rachel agreed that Tavi Gevinson as Jessica, Warren’s feisty love interest, was the weakest performer of the three. “It’s like she just got out of acting school,” Karen said, referring to her heavy use of mannerisms. True, her performance is a little more affected than the other two, but I found her likable. Perhaps that’s because the Jessica/Warren scenes — with their anxious flirtations and hilarious arguments — just felt a little more interesting than the Dennis/Warren scenes. Especially in the first act. It’s when Warren is trying to woo Jessica — somewhat successfully — that this play is at its strongest: both a contemplation on what it’s like to be young and a dynamic interaction between two characters.

My Grade: B
Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Ticket price: $39 on TDF
Worth it: Yes
Standing Ovation Watch: 50/50 (Rachel says it was more like 25% standing, 25% getting ready to leave)

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