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This Was Not My Youth!

THIS IS OUR YOUTH by Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Sabrina Evertt
Presentation House, North Vancouver
Aug 18-Sept 2, 2006
Twenty-Something Theatre

Vancouver, B.C. Contrary to many in my Sixties Generation cohort I can say with absolute veracity that "I did not inhale". But that was because I did not ever smoke - cigarettes, pot or any other vile substances that coat delicate alveolar membranes with a miscellany of poisons. As for any other "hard" drugs, I never wanted to (and even more today don't want to) let them loose on my neurons. Mindful of the theories that we start losing brain cells in our early twenties I try to keep mine busy by regular exercising "“ reading, crosswords, puzzles and various forms of continuing education. Getting high on drugs, turning on, dropping out and all those sixties things was never my scene. So the empty lifestyle of the three young people in This is our Youth was and still is foreign territory to me.

Written by award winning New York playwright, screenwriter and director, Kenneth Lonergan, This is our Youth is set in 1982 in a one room apartment in Manhattan, on the Upper West Side. Here Dennis (Graham Wardle) has achieved his "independence" from his rich painter father and social worker mother by living in this apartment (that they pay for) and he funds his aimless existence by dealing drugs. When his friend Warren (Timothy Johnston), who has been thrown out of his home by his indifferent father, arrives bearing $15,000 dollars he stole on his way out of the house, Dennis goes into a frenzy, bullying and belittling the hapless Warren. After trying to get Warren to leave, Dennis hatches a scheme to use some of the money to buy cocaine which he can resell at a profit. Into this mix comes Jessica (Kirsten Kilburn), who initially resists the tentative advances of the besotted Warren, but gives in amazingly quickly when he suggests a night at an upscale hotel, with a couple of bottles of Dom Perignon thrown in.

Twenty-Something Theatre Company state that their mandate is to provide local theatre audiences with the opportunity to experience what the future artists of our theatre community have to offer. Director Sabrina Everett and her young cast take on this task with mixed success. I guess it's hard to do much else with lines consisting of a couple of words joined by the F-word but despite the energy with which he tackled the role of the bullying, drug using, drug dealing Dennis, Wardle shouted and clutched his head a lot and I found it hard to hear what he was saying. He needs to articulate more clearly. As Jessica, Kilburn's defensiveness the day after the champagne -hotel room "event", contrasted nicely with her flirty persona of the previous day, and she looked prim and perky, 80s style, in both her outfits, a green cinch-waist dress, and a bright red mini. Timothy Johnston as Warren was very effective in conveying every nuance of the character; the hurt from his father's indifference, the impetuosity of the money theft, the desperation of having nowhere to go. His understated sensitive performance made Warren's transformation from vulnerable victim of Dennis's bullying, to a more self-confident person believable.

I guess drop-outs and drug dealers swear a lot. I came away numbed by the loud and constant use of the F-word. The play has been described as a comedy but this production needs better pacing and control for any humour to emerge.