This Is Our Youth« Go Back To Stage

  • By
  • Kenneth Lonergan
  • Directed by Matt Miller
  • Produced by Pine Box Theatre & AJ Not Alan Productions
  • Cast
  • Rob Belushi, Jon Barinholtz, & Anne Adams

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
–The Chicago Reader

CRITIC'S CHOICE
-Timeout Chicago

It's a pleasure to see a trio of performances so fresh, sharp, and thoroughly engaging. -The Chicago Tribune

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  • By
  • Kenneth Lonergan
  • Directed by Matt Miller
  • Produced by Pine Box Theatre & AJ Not Alan Productions
  • Cast
  • Rob Belushi, Jon Barinholtz, & Anne Adams

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
–The Chicago Reader

CRITIC'S CHOICE
-Timeout Chicago

It's a pleasure to see a trio of performances so fresh, sharp, and thoroughly engaging. -The Chicago Tribune

Reviews

'This Is Our Youth' contrived, yet alive

from Chicago Tribune

by Kerry Reid

The late Spy magazine once put out the 'novel-o-matic,' a handy device for aspiring scribes hoping to cash in on the Jay McInerney and Brett Easton Ellis schools of literature. Playwright Kenneth Lonergan must have stashed one away for future reference. Set in 1982, Lonergan's 1996 play, 'This Is Our Youth', has all the essential elements of '80s hipster anomie mocked by the humor mag—namely, drugged-out directionless post-collegiates resentful of their parents (even when Mom and Dad pay the rent on their grungy flat). Lonergan helpfully sets up a tidy dichotomy between the two young men whose relationship forms the central arc of the play.

Dennis (Jon Barinholtz) the would-be man of business (that is, a petty drug dealer) is the child of an artist and an idealistic social worker, while Warren (Rob Belushi, son of Jim), the child of “arguably the most dangerous lingerie manufacturer in the world,” carries around a suitcase full of collectibles, worth more to him in sentimental value than in cash potential.

There's a girl in the picture, too, but thankfully Lonergan doesn't use aspiring fashion designer Jessica as a sexual wedge between the male protagonists. Given the schematic nature of the rest of the script, the best thing one can do is cast it well. And here's where Matt Miller's staging for Pine Box Theatre Company shines. Barinholtz and Belushi each have extensive improv experience, and it shows in the careful but unfussy way they listen and honestly react to each other. Anne Adams' Jessica is appealing—she's the pretty girl who hasn't quite figured out how to gird her emotions in the armor of “yeah man, whatever.” The fumbling romantic scene between Jessica and Warren is beguiling. Even though the script feels hoary and contrived, it's a pleasure to see a trio of performances so fresh, sharp, and thoroughly engaging.

'This Is Our Youth'

from Chicago Reader

by Brian Nemtusak

Highly Recommended

Although drugs figure powerfully as symbols of commerce and emptiness in Kenneth Lonergan's 1996 script, very little consumption occurs onstage. That's funny given how expertly the play cycles through the moneyed user's stations of the cross: prebinge ennui, euphoric rush of romantic identification, melodramatic consideration of a fellow user's OD, and final contemplation of the parental pathologies generating all the youthful dysfunction. This excruciating verisimilitude doesn't add up to much more than the re-creation of entitled disaffection, however, and the essentially conflictless story fails to raise the stakes. But Pine Box Theatre Company's committed, hyperwatchable cast positively nails Lonergan's brand of all-too-true humor, somehow selling, if barely, even the faintest moments.

Critic's Choice

from Timeout Chicago

by Timeout Chicago

A few years ago, Kenneth Lonergan’s chamber play about disaffected Upper West Side kids in the Reagan ‘80s became a convenient West End vehicle for young Hollywood stars hungry for some stage cred. By taking away the flash, Pine Box’s unassuming production reveals that, although Lonergans’ charming 1996 play doesn’t say as much about youth or the ‘80s as it wants to, it does give a gently affectionate take on three characters’ twentysomething confusion: Dennis (Barinholtz), the selfish asshole selling drugs to his fellow rich kids; Warren (Belushi), his sweetly befuddled, mayhem-prone friend who’s just swiped $15k from his jerk dad; and Jessica (Adams), Warren’s sudden love interest.

Miller has kept his cast low-key and at ease, not presenting Lonergan’s light humor but letting it come out organically. (An equally restrained hand would’ve benefited Brian Sidney Bembridge’s set, so eager to say Manhattan studio that its beaten-up overtreated walls suggest a bad rash.) At times that unforced approach comes off forced, but mostly it rings true—thanks in large part to the arresting central performance of Belushi, holding the stage and our attention almost every moment. Tossing around a football with Dennis, enduring Dennis’ verbal and physical abuse, or nearly crumpling into tears as he tells Jessica about his dead sister, Belushi lives inside Warren with simple integrity. Barinholtz can seem unsure of his role and its tone, but he and Adams hold their own. Yet it’s Belushi’s character and performance that keep the center of gravity in these free-floating lives. -NP