Reviewed by Jamie Portman
Kenneth Lonergan’s 1996 play about disaffected, self-absorbed and rudderless young people created quite a stir 15 years ago and ushered its 34-year-old author into a major career. Today, it seems less of a landmark and somewhat redolent of warmed-over Mamet. Yet, it continues to strike a chord within the youth culture, and over the years its pungent naturalistic dialogue, garnished with profane humor and often merciless character analysis, has attracted such outstanding young actors as Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo.
Lonergan has compassion for his people, but he doesn’t sentimentalize them. He leaves no doubt that the muddled and malleable Warren, who has just stolen $15,000 from his abusive father, is a monumental screw-up. And Warren’s hero worship of Dennis, a petty drug dealer driven by rage, frustration and a self-loathing to which he won’t admit, is a further portent of disaster. It is a measure of the quality of this production that Geoff Burnside (Dennis) and Luke Bradley (Warren) are excellent in communicating both the rawness and complexity of these characters.
Some of the best moments come in the scenes between Luke Bradley’s gauche and fumbling Warren and Jessica, the confused prep-school girl who becomes the object of his desire. Emma Goldman needs to project more in this role. but the vulnerability of her character is palpable, as is the evidence she supplies of a bruised moral integrity.
Although Ian Moggach’s production keeps us intensely interested in how these people will further bungle their destiny, there is little sense of time and place. These turbulent 24 hours in three troubled but possibly redeemable lives, are occurriing in 1986 when Ronald Reagan was president. And these kids are products of an affluent Manhattan Jewish secular culture which continues to foster a bizarre dependence in them even as their resentments towards that culture fester. How much does this matter in a Canadian production in 2011? Perhaps not as much as Kenneth Lonergan wanted: there were things he wanted to get off his chest when he wrote this play _ but his script yields richer and more substantial concerns having to do with squandered young lives and that most pervasive of late 20th Century themes, the breakdown of communications between individuals.And that final scene between Dennis and Warren, two post-adolescent adolescents inert in a lethargic hopelessness, there is more than a glimmer of Godot’s tramps.
Ottawa, Jamie Portman, 3 December, 2011
This is Our Youth.
A Sock’n Buskin production from Carleton University
By Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Ian Moggach
Dennis Ziegler …………………Geoff Burnside
Warren Straub…………………..Luke Bradley
Jessica Goldman……………….Emma Bromley