Drugs, sex, foul language and self-delusion, combined with a sense of entitlement. These are the underpinnings of the world depicted in This is our Youth.
I thank my lucky stars that it was not my youth. Perhaps this is why Kenneth Lonergan’s 1996 drama — set in New York during the Reagan era in 1982 — does not resonate with me.
Admittedly, the dialogue, heavily padded with the f-word and worse, rings true for this threesome of Upper West Side drifters from wealthy backgrounds living through the dropout generation of the 1980s. And, by the end of the play, there is a sense that they have overcome some of their moral confusion, if not their destructive drug habits.
The tone of the script is repulsive. Therefore, it is a relief that the performances in the Sock ‘n’ Buskin production, directed by Iain Moggach, are so good. In portraying the rocky road that Warren, Dennis and even Jessica must negotiate on the way to responsible adulthood, and so have a chance of avoiding repeating their parents’ dysfunctional lives, all three actors are convincing. Luke Bradley, as the immature loser Warren, is a punching ball for the bullying Dennis (Geoff Burnside) for most of the play. Meanwhile, Emma Bromley, as the argumentative Jessica, deals with the conflict between her interest in Warren and the drug-dominated lifestyle and preserving her generally positive relationship with her mother.
Eventually, the distorted friendship between Dennis and Warren at the heart of the play finds a better balance. But there is considerable doubt whether the journey to this point —Moggach’s direction, though quite competent, gives little sense of time or place — is worthwhile. This is our Youth may have shocked and enthralled in the 1990s, but it is more than a little dated in 2011 (for anyone over 30, anyway).
This is our Youth continues at the Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University through
Ottawa, Iris Winston
Dec. 3, 2011