This is Our Youth highlights issues of adolescence

By David Napolitano

The Department of Theater and New Dance’s latest production of Kenneth Lonergan’s dramedy, “This is Our Youth,” embraces the raw tragedy and foolish comedy under Michael T. Kachingwe’s nuanced direction, as well as the vulnerable performances from the lead acting trio of Chase Atherton, Joshua Adler and Samantha Avila.

If the director’s intent was to hone in on the lampooning of privilege spoiling the youth, then he succeeded.

With that said, the production goes much deeper than pointing at the dysfunction with raucous laughter.

Lonergan evokes a sophisticated empathy that encourages the characters onto the path towards redemption, as the narrative unravels.

Warren and Dennis are two close friends making ends meet in the mean streets of Manhattan, New York, during the heated sociopolitical climate of the 1980s.

Their respective fraternal relationship of the wide-eyed innocent and the rugged cynic could only be described as a comedic pairing that is all too familiar.

The two evoke the comedic friendship similar to Jackie Gleason and Art Carney, from “The Honeymooners,” the classic 1950s sitcom.

There was Dennis, who was gazing upon the television in the comfortable dark through the eyes of an adult but with the soul of a trapped and frustrated child.

The world, however, has other plans for him.

Warren, all of a sudden, visits Dennis’ apartment, and the lights reveal a gloomy and bleak abode.

Warren, in eagerness, brings attention to a sack filled with $15,000 that he snatched from his own abusive father.

From there, dreams of a richer life sprout and ensue.

For Warren, his own desire paints a new life with a beautiful woman Jessica, who is the attractive, yet flawed, fashion student.

In spite of the play’s solitary setting, the evocative set design distorts a mundane and tacky apartment room into an expressionistic structure.

All of the homey and cozy appeals are absent from this imposed metaphysical corner, manifesting the fears of its scrutinized characters.

Little do they know that they are all under an existential microscope.

Every action, thought and decision builds to a resolution that promises a new beginning.

In one scene, a budding romance unfolds between Warren and Jessica. They express their admirations, insecurities and proceed to make passionate love.

Neither the director nor his actors telegraph the emotions of their relationship.

Throughout the performance, there is, instead, a modest insistence of the natural growth of adulthood that embraces strife with coming-of-age.

To discuss the dramatic potency of Warren and Dennis’ many scenes of anxiety and heartbreak would take up the entire review, so here’s the long story short: the actors are sublime together.

Their scenes are funny and touching. Although they’re a little awkward, it works well.

Before Lonergan went on to win his first Academy Award for writing his 2016 directed-drama, “Manchester by the Sea,” the conflict between withered compassion against the harrowing personal crises becomes his enduring thesis within his preceding works.

Amid these troubling pathos, lies a vocal twang of screwball comedy from the narrative.

The performances of Atherton, Adler and Avila instill the emotional processes that dodge their gritty personas from mean-spirited territory.

They are not victims or even innocuous dreamers, but they are lost souls clawing at some semblance of sense from the chilly cesspool that suffocates them.

All at the same time, however, the narrative’s poignancy never strays in extravagant territory of cartoonish antics.

Despite its 1980s backdrop, amid polarizing Reaganomics and the ongoing war on drugs, Kachingwe’s refreshing execution reignites its anxieties for a contemporary era facing the doomed history that repeats itself.

The production does indeed transcend from the rose-tinted gloss of the old decade and into a desperate mindset of down-on-luck hopefuls.

It also insists a cyclical nature of humanity that growth and maturity can only overcome the impulsive setbacks that are imposed only by ourselves.

Pictured left to right, third-year theatre students Chase Atherton and Josh Adler

Chris Bashaw / Courtesy of Theatre and New Dance

Pictured left to right, third-year theatre students Chase Atherton and Josh Adler

Pictured, third-year Samantha Avila and Atherton

Chris Bashaw / Courtesy of Theatre and New Dance

Pictured, third-year Samantha Avila and Atherton

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