Woefully to those of us who fall under its label, ‘millennial’ has become something of a dirty word. In their debut mounting of This is Our Youth, Midtwenties Theatre Society asks us to sit with some millennials who demonstrate the worst of the problem, while also forcing us to look at the discomfort and the humanity that their millennial circumstances create.
Art Director Beau Han Bridge makes a strong directorial debut, presenting a first effort that shows significant promise and an eye for capturing a midtwenties experience. His decision to reframe the play in the Trump era is a generally affective choice, calling attention the deep disillusionment these kids feel attempting to step into a world whose morals and capitalistic incentives have destroyed their families and left them unable to truly connect to one another. But the source material still holds subtle but affective reminiscences of the Reagan-era in which it was set. Some of the terms and slurs used by the cast seem out of joint with who they are likely to be. Yes, they are privileged, rich, white millenials. But they are those that grew up in an expanding culture of social justice awareness and political correctness, making such flippant use of certain terms and attitudes feel disjunctive.
Zack Currie does a convincing job as Dennis, a rich boy drug dealer sure he could be the best at whatever he decided to do if only he decided to do something. Strongest in his final scene, Currie plays his part with a tension and a giggliness that is sometimes confusing, but foregrounds Dennis’ insecurity from the beginning.
As Dennis’ put-upon counterpart Warren, Quinn Hinch embodies the awkward, insecure stoner on the verge of making his life’s first real decision. The sweetness that he brings to the part is essential and affecting: at first blush it’s hard to find someone to root for in this messed-up bunch. But as everyone else in this show is tired of being picked on – by parents, by friends, by life- Warren is easy pickings, and thus becomes an unlikely somewhat-hero.
Mackenzie Cardwell as Jessica offers the play’s strongest performance, bringing a simplicity and realism that perfectly balances the stage. Her and Hinch’s chemistry make their scenes the strongest and most absorbing of the night.
Watching This is Our Youth is at times deeply frustrating. Privilege runs rampant and unchecked, leaving you wanting to interrupt and offer the characters the advice they so desperately need. Floundering to relate to each other, they are so sure they have life figured out that they almost refuse to hear each other when they speak. As Dennis continually asserts “This is just how we talk” - talking around each other, over each other, arguments suddenly blooming almost incomprehensibly. They talk in ways that are desperately self-assured to cover their insecurity, their incredible fear of living in the actual world, of becoming their parents.
And though the way they channel this fear and insecurity is aggravating at times, it would not be so if the audience weren’t invested, as the quality of this production allows them to be. It is perhaps the strongest indication of why Han Bridge describes the play as a “horrifically accurate depiction of the millennial mentalities that defines our ‘politically-correct’ 2017 world.”
Remaining performances of This is Our Youth will be held on July 22 and 23, at the Red Gate Revue Stage. Tickets and more info can be found here. Hope to see you there!