Well, it turns that the kids are not alright after all-at least not now. But give them some time. At the moment, they’re happy to mope in an Upper West side apartment with their illicit substances and empty selves. Adolescence has never been quite so challenging, but also not quite as entertaining and provocative in Kenneth Lonergan’s revival of This is Our Youth. Originally staged off-Broadway in 1996, this highly acclaimed piece has admirably made its’ way back to the Broadway stage, where it is currently running at the Cort Theater.
Set during the 1980’s, the action occurs in the swanky pad of Dennis Ziegler (Kieran Culkin) , an overly cocky and privileged soul whose parents pay for his parent because, as he observes, “they’re so grateful I don’t want to live with them” and, as long as they spring for his rent, “we’ll never have to deal with each other.” Ziegler cajoles his drug dealers and talks a great talk. His bravado is triumphant, and yet he eventually admits that he’s “high on fear.” Too much confidence can take a toll. Warren Straub (Michael Cera) is the anti-thesis of Ziegler. Sensitive and neurotic, Straub shows up to his friend Ziegler’s door, having just been kicked out of his parents’ house– although not before he’s pocketed some cash-a whole helluva lot of cash. With $15,000 to call his own, the world is endless. It’s enough loot to get him a room for the night at the Plaza hotel and a few bottles of Dom Perignon. This is where he plans to get lucky with Jessica Goldman (Tavi Gevinson), a fashion student who is desperately seeking answers along with Ziegler and Straub.
Longergan has stretched this coming-of-age tale into a two and a half hour piece and yet the crackling dialogue and tight chemistry between this cast makes for a compelling conversation. What is most noticeable is the commentary, not only on youth itself and the dangers of materialism , but also on the fraudulence of what Jessica considers, “the last pathetic remnants of Upper West Side Jewish liberalism.” Longergan’s doesn’t steer away from the complacency of urban living, either. Upon considering the merits of Wyoming over New York, Straub asks, “What the f*** am I doing languishing on this trash heap for? The intellectual stimulation? I’m not getting any.” Jessica agrees, “I don’t really take advantage of the city’s facilities either, and it just seems like such a total waste.” For too many city dwellers, her observation strikes the bulls-eye.
Originally staged at Chicago’s Steppenwolf theater, director Anna D. Shapiro has brought a swift directorial hand to the proceedings on Todd Rosenthal’s stunning set. It’s so realistic, you’ll swear you were on the sidewalk peering inside. All three actors make arresting Broadway debuts and create a thorough and enriching night of dynamic theater.
This is Our Youth plays now through January 4, 2015 at Broadway’s Cort Theater, 138 West 48th Street (between 6th and 7th avenue). For tickets and more information, visit the box office or online: http://thisisouryouthbroadway.com/