Monday, September 15, 2014

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Time Out Theater Review: 'This Is Our Youth'

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The Broadway fall season kicks off with the debut of "This Is Our Youth," a play by Kenneth Lonergan about three young adults struggling to make their way in 1982 New York that first debuted off-Broadway in 1996. David Cote of Time Out New York filed the following report for NY1.

In a series of gawky, awkward teens, on "Arrested Development" or in films such as "Juno" and "Superbad," Michael Cera has managed to appear both incredibly naïve and world-weary. Well, this millennial Charlie Brown is smartly cast in Kenneth Lonergan's slacker dramedy "This Is Our Youth," which is almost as old as its post-adolescent protagonists.

Cera plays Warren Straub, a clever but jumpy and immature 19-year-old who already seems burned out by the cynical banality of 1982 New York. Warren's so-called friend Dennis, played by Kieran Culkin, is two years ahead of him in that post-Me Generation, early-Reagan world, and he’s a bullying, manipulative jerk. Dennis is a low-level pot dealer whose shabby Upper West Side apartment is paid for by parents who'd rather foot his rent than have him around. One night, Warren shows up lugging a suitcase full of collectible toys and a knapsack stuffed with $15,000 stolen from his lingerie-dealer dad.

Turning up later to party is Jessica played by Tavi Gevinson, an idealistic but insecure fashion student whom Warren fancies. Warren and Jessica's herky-jerky courtship scene is both tenderly rendered and comically mannered, as the two try on ill-fitting, sophisticated attitudes for size.

Anna D. Shapiro's clear-eyed staging brings out earnest, honest performances from the young trio. Cera's trademark facial deadpan and vocal drone have the curious effect of deepening, not lessening, our sympathy for Warren. Culkin gets to shine in the flashy role, and Gevinson toggles amusingly between prim ingenue and neurotic urbanite.

The play itself is vintage Lonergan: wistful, funny, questing for a moral compass in a cold world. Plus, the cast is solid. They're nice kids. I think they've got a bright future ahead of them.

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