Adrift In '80s New York

By: Ellen Petry Whalen

Topics: Local Theater

Ruby Wolf and and John Evans Reese in “This Is Our Youth” at WHAT. MICHAEL AND SUZ KARCHMER PHOTO

Three Young People Grow Up In Hard-hitting 'This Is Our Youth

The Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater opens its 34th season with the high-energy “This Is Our Youth”— a play set in the '80s, the same time the theater got its start.

First performed in 1996, playwright Kenneth Lonergan’s coming-of-age drama showcases three young adults adrift in New York City’s materialistic and cocaine-snorting Reagan years.

Warren, a college-dropout, is the son of a wealthy businessman. A self-described stoner, he admits his hobby makes him geographically flexible. “All I do is smoke pot, and I can do it anywhere.”

Warren shows up unexpectedly at Dennis’ shabby and unkempt apartment, with $15,000 in cash. Pressured by Dennis, Warren finally confesses to stealing the money from his father after being kicked out of his family’s posh Central Park West apartment.

The self-absorbed Dennis is reluctant to let Warren stay, not wanting to be linked to any negative fallout from Warren’s theft. After much discussion, a plan is hatched to use the money to make more money selling cocaine. Afterwards, Warren plans on returning the money to his father, hopefully without him any the wiser.

As Warren, John Evans Reese (an M.F.A candidate at Yale School of Drama) gives a compelling and multi-faceted performance. At first, he portrays Warren as an impulsive pothead with ADHD, but as his character develops, we see a very lonely and deeply emotional young man, who ultimately finds his voice, and stands up to Dennis’ continual abuse.

Michael Goldsmith, who received his training at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, maximizes Dennis’ hair-trigger temper, which can become highly physical, with Goldsmith wrestling Reese to the floor on a number of occasions. In a lengthy monologue, where Dennis questions his drug-dealing lifestyle after a friend dies of an overdose, Goldsmith has the audience’s complete attention with his maniacal delivery.

Halfway through the first act, Jessica, a young woman that Warren has a crush on, arrives at the apartment. Left alone, the two slowly warm up to each other. After much heated debate about whether or not their personas are fully developed at their age, they smoke some pot, and soon they are slow-dancing together.

Local actor Ruby Wolf is no stranger to the WHAT stage. Once again, the NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate demonstrates her dramatic prowess as Jessica, the only female in the three-person play. Wolf easily transitions from the confident, debate-loving student of fashion to an insecure and hesitant lover. She and Reese visibly display an innocent tenderness toward each other as their relationship naturally progresses.

New to WHAT, director Katherine M. Carter keeps the drama’s intensity high, and brings out the best in this talented ensemble of professional actors.

Filled with profanity and offensive language, the witty and at times humorous dialogue is unapologetically authentic with a sense of urgency that propels the storyline forward.

Designed by Edward T. Morris, Dennis’ bachelor pad is highly realistic in its unadorned state, littered with strewn-about clothes, old take-out boxes, a dirty kitchenette, and very grimy windows.

WHAT’s hard-hitting “This Is Our Youth” is not the typical sugar-coated, happy-ending adolescent storyline neatly wrapped up with a bow. Many struggles the characters face are left unresolved, but there is a feeling of change in the air, as they prepare to take their final steps into adulthood.

 

DETAILS:

“This Is Our Youth”

At Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, Route 6, Wellfleet

Through June 22

Information and reservations: 508-349-9428, what.org