Corrections or additions?
Review: `This Is Our Youth’
This New York review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 3, 1999. All rights
It doesn’t happen too often, but sometimes we can miss
some of the best theater if we blink. This happened two years ago
when Kenneth Lonergan’s play, "This Is Our Youth," opened
to rave reviews and vanished. Santa Claus, or should I say the producers
Barry and Fran Weissler, have apparently waited for the right moment
to bring back the New Group’s production of this exciting, street-smart
contemporary drama. Still boasting two of the original cast, and with
the same director Mark Brokaw, this play about a trio of post-teens,
two young men and one woman, the indolent spoiled and rich children
on Manhattan’s upper West Side, is a stunner.
Although the environment of these crude, rude, sexually-active, drug
dealing and taking, self-destructive characters is one rather more
familiarly and nostalgically depicted in the mid-century works of
J.D. Salinger, the environment changed drastically enough by 1982,
the time of the play and the time of the Reagan administration. By
then the disillusionment with one’s family, the country’s politics,
and the stigma of casually dropping out of college had sent the young
on a more devastating and catastrophic downward spiral.
A universe away from Salinger and the quaint rebukes of the "phony"
life that prompted alienation from Holden, Phoebe, Franny and Zooey,
the characters of "This Is Our Youth" are hell-bent on self-destruction.
They attempt, mostly in ways that make us laugh uneasily, to turn
the world they have inherited on its ear. If nothing about the plot
is especially novel, the wise, often wacky, street talk will prick
up your ears as your eyes take in some of the most outrageously rationalized,
comical, anti-social antics to hit the stage in a long time.
Mark Rosenthal gives a frenetic, off-the-wall performance as Dennis
Ziegler, a loud-mouthed, savvy, wheeler-dealer in drugs and anything
marketable, including his best friend Warren Straub’s lifelong collection
of rare memorabilia. As Warren, Mark Ruffalo expertly facilitates
his insecure character’s unbalanced intelligence with the dopey facade
he has so artfully crafted and mastered. An aimless, confused youth
who has just absconded with $15,000 in cash belonging to his father,
Warren has only Jessica Goldman (Missy Yager) on his mind.
Yager appears to be having fun as the cleverly coy Jessica, a sporting,
sexually permissive sort of girl who isn’t a fool, but can’t say No
to spending a night with Warren in the most expensive suite at the
Plaza Hotel. The irony that pervades the play is the gnawing feeling
that these youths are doing all the wrong things for the right reasons.
At any rate, there isn’t a dull moment under Brokaw’s high-speed (no
pun intended) direction. HHH
— Simon Saltzman
42, 800-432-7250. $40. Runs to February 28.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.