Second Stage Theatre / www.secondstagetheatre.com
On through 29 October
by Andrew Ramsey, Theatre Correspondent
A Whole Lotta Angsting Going On…
In Eric Bogosian’s updated “SubUrbia,” his youthful actors run, stomp, drink (a lot), piss, vomit, climb, throw food (and each other) and hurl enough Fuck You’s to make your head spin. All the ranting and stagey posing, however, adds up to a whole lot of noise and a shamtering of individuality or current relevance – despite some slick rewrites hi-lighting everything from iPods to Iraq. Director, Jo Bonney keeps an adequate though occasionally meandering pace, but might we be overexposed via film and TV to idle youths acting out and slacking off? Are we so numbed that a live play featuring a gaggle of them passing twenty-four hours outside a suburban convenience store – here fantastically realized (even stocked with a rainbow of Vitamin Waters) – fails to titillate when their collective whininess equates to little more than group boredom? Even the threat of firearms doesn’t pack the punch it should (welcome to ’06, I guess), and I can’t help wondering if a less presentational space and some moment-to-moment fine-tuning might make “SubUrbia” more intimate and uncomfy. The evening seemed diffused, removed and, while robust at times, only half-committed. Think of a grungy subway train running low on juice halfway to your final stop.
Mind you, this is no fault of the surely talented acting ensemble. A standout is Peter Scanavino, who plays Tim, the group’s worst off: a perpetually drunk, racist ex-Air Force guy whose failures (sexual, too) add up to an emotionally crippled, destructive existence. Scanavino is riveting in one of the best tormented male meltdowns one’s likely to see skulking around a stage. If annoying, twitchy and perpetually in-motion can be charming (and it is here), then Kieran Culkin nails his A.D.D. skater/stoner character, Buff. The young women, too, inhabit their types quite well – a cinematic Gabby Hoffman plays budding artist Sooze with adequate disaffection; Halley Feiffer quietly shimmers as recovering addict Bee-Bee and the sultry Jessica Capshaw truly showcases the slick, ballsy “PR Gal” type.
The shiny store is run by Pakistani siblings (Diksha Basu and Manu Narayan), two determined transplants fiercely focused on their American dream. The immigrants are disgusted by the slackers’ inability to get their lives together (and get off their stoop), and it’s the clash of these hard working outsiders in their glass store with the unsettled youths outside running amuck that sparks “SubUrbia”‘s occasional pangs of reflection and universality. Also, the interest meter rises when a recent friend-turned-rising-rock star (a well-cast and nice-voiced Michael Esper) glides into town for a concert and offers joy rides in his limo, which completely offends his once-best pal Jeff (a rather one-note, angry Daniel Eric Gold). A quick flash of a past homoerotic attraction between the two never gets explored further.
As usual with Second Stage, the show looks and sounds great: transition music cleverly fades into an onstage boom box; efficient lighting shows time passage; the grungy, trendy clothes don’t scream “costumes”; even the Chinese food eaten (and thrown) onstage comes complete with soy packets.
You might, then, leave “SubUrbia” remembering what (and who) you saw but find yourself searching to recall what made these youths different from one another under Bonney’s lax eye…forgetting what was said (or unsaid)…and, most unfortunately: why. In my book, a whole lot of angst goes only so far these days.