This is Our Youth – the Awkward Days

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NY Theater Review Sandi Durell

 

It’s not easy transitioning from adolescence to adulthood! Kids trying to be grownups in Kenneth Lonergan’s revival at the Cort Theater (set in 1982 during the Regan era), find these late bloomers carrying the loads of their mostly (and I hate to use the word) dysfunctional backgrounds that result in arrested development.

Michael Cera, who plays Warren, certainly knows a thing or two about that having perfected the cult teenager on TV’s “Arrested Development” and has had lots of experience as a nerd being browbeaten by an alpha male, in this case, Dennis, played by the quirky, affable, bullying Kieran Culkin. Well, maybe they are a little old for their roles, but they sure have the characters down pat, filled with profanity, uncertainty and jerky movements that play particularly well for Cera.

Dennis has just been kicked out of his house by his rich, mob-connected father and as retribution, he’s stolen $15,000 of pop’s money and comes knocking on his friend Warren’s door for shelter and a shoulder. Warren is a rich kid whose parents find it easier to pay for his apartment as he spends most of his time smoking pot, dealing and womanizing. Dennis is a hysterical, herky-jerky, clumsy kid filled with uncertainties, but smart. He goes along with whatever Warren says, taking his on-going abuse as Warren calls him a moron, an annoying little loud mouth and other putdowns.

Dennis has a problem with girls and is still trying to get it on, in this case with Warren’s girlfriend’s friend Jessica, played by newcomer Tavi Gevinson, who is also at odds with life and the world but very much tuned into maintaining a good relationship with her mother. She and Dennis hit it off both enjoying their verbal battling. Gevinson is the new “it” girl with a charm that immediately grabs attention.

It’s an on-going clash as Warren comes up with a variety of schemes in which to use Dennis’ money, acting as the know-it-all giving a humorous portrayal.

We find out that Dennis had a sister who was murdered, giving pause to more serious moments and context.

Director Anna B. Shapiro handles her three multi-layered performers with panache in the 2 hours 20 minutes of sheer delight that takes many of us back to memories of vinyl, awkward times and first times.

The set design by Todd Rosenthal is a messy Westside apartment above which we see an entire building of apartments, all imaginatively lit by Brian MacDevitt.

 

This Is Our Youth at the Cort Theatre, 138 West 48 St. thru January 4th. 212 239-6200, www.thisisouryouthbroadway.com

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