MOM THEATRE LOVER: This is Our Youth: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman
Kenneth Lonergan’s THIS IS OUR YOUTH, , directed by Tony Award® winner Anna D. Shapiro and developed by Stppenwolf in Chicago, stars Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, and Tavi Gevinson in the first Broadway production of this insightful and tender, yet comedic revival.
Powerful and endearing portrayals pack a punch in this poignant play about three young Jewish people living in New York in 1982 as they come together in a quest for acceptance, validation, autonomy and love that they so long for from their respective families, but brutally escapes them.
Culkin as 20 year old Dennis is magnetic on stage, and as in charge as his character appears to be at times, underneath we know there is a young man simmering for self sufficiency, while he lives in an apartment financed by his wealthy artist father. To earn cash, Dennis sells drugs and indulges in a fair amount himself, along with friends.
Cera, as Warren (a couple of years younger than Dennis), is like a puppy dog who tears at your heart, with his longing for a successful sexual conquest, but more importantly, friends who truly have his back, and emotional freedom from the lingering thoughts about his murdered sister that continue to haunt him.
Gevinson is appealing and affecting as Jessica, the girl of Warren’s dreams, who too yearns for true friendship and to break from the demands of her protective mother.
The play opens with Warren arriving at the apartment of Dennis, as Warren lays on him the both disturbing and exciting fact that he’s stolen a sack of cash from his father who he describes as “arguably the most dangerous lingerie manufacturer in the world.” In an effort to return the money, before his father potentially comes after them, Dennis concocts a scheme to make a big drug sell plus sell off some treasured retro-toys and items, belonging to Warren, including a “rare” toaster oven that Warren claims are worth thousands. The plan arises after Warren squanders some of his father’s money on an indulgent overnight stay at the Plaza hotel with Jessica, who he felt would only potentially sleep with him were she romanced in grandiose style. His strategy works, but in a bittersweet meeting the following day, Jessica asks for Warren’s beloved possession– his grandfather’s baseball cap — and the resulting exchange is one of the most touching scenes in the play.
Lonergan has a way with biting, clever dialogue (for example — “These are the proceeds of my unhappy childhood”), and the actors deliver it with aplomb.
To see THIS IS OUR YOUTH is a study of a character study that is indeed worth examining, both for it’s entertainment value and depth.
ABOUT THE CAST
Michael Cera (Warren) starred in the films Superbad, Juno, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Year One, Paper Heart, Youth in Revolt, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Crystal Fairy, and Magic Magic. Michael played George-Michael Bluth on the FOX and subsequent Netflix series “Arrested Development,” and recently starred alongside John Hawkes, Sally Hawkins, and Catherine Keener in “How and Why,” a new Charlie Kaufman pilot for FX.
And…..let me add….The stunningly realistic set featuring the apartment of Dennis, dwarfed by the grandure of illuminated building apartment above it , makes you feel as if you’re right there in the midst of a snapshot of the city, yet knowing this trio is surrounded by the many trappings of the city and the other lives that abound.
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