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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at at the Second Stage Theatre, New York

By Gabrielle Mitchell-Marell

  SubUrbia at the Second Stage Theatre

Eric Bogosian doctors-up his1994 play to contemporize a portrait of young adult ennui veering towards self-destruction in anywhere USA. Though the world of the play doesn't stray from the stagnant exterior of a 7-eleven, the action and dysfunctional dynamics of a group of hometown friends shirking adulthood steadily escalates.  Director Jo Bonney, hones in on the frenetic energy of Gen Y, fueled by ipods, rollerblades, the Internet and the timeless touchstone of late adolescence-- a restless, misdirected energy, as endearing as it is unsettling.

As an ensemble, the young actors hit the necessary naturalistic note and are the ones who deserve the credit for bringing currency to this vessel. It is enjoyable to watch these characters hang out and do...essentially nothing beyond drink beer and talk out of their asses. The potential of the night's trail, which has fired up the dull, dark hours of countless before them, is what fuels the characters, and in turn the audience: we are all anticipating what comes next.

No one exemplifies this more than the stylistically unkempt and perennially boyish Buff (Kieran Culkin) who one can't imagine being contained by four walls let alone a parental figure, though he apparently lives with his mother. He is constantly on the move-sliding down lamp posts, taking jumps of the curb and simulating sexual acts with the inhibition of a wild animal.  Even as you are laughing, your heart beats faster, nervously anticipating what this unaccountable imp might do next.                 

The delightful Gaby Hoffman, who returns to acting after only intermittent appearances the past several years, is easy, solid, and in-her-skin as Sooze, an aspiring performance artist who has her sights set on New York City.  She is willing to leave her long-term boyfriend Jeff, (Daniel Eric Gold) a neophyte philosopher who uses sinicism to mask his fear of failure in the outside world. Peter Scanavino has perhaps the most challenging role as Tim, a seemingly hopeless, brooding and flagrantly racist drunk who served in Iraq and was discharged after a minor injury. Scanavino is not quite able to supply the necessary arc for the character and ends up hitting the same intense, bitter notes over and over, falling prey to the pitfalls of the overly-dramatic scenarios of the play's final scenes.

Overall, SubUrbia remains a contemporary, unpredictable ride to nowhere. It is neither overly idealistic, nor damning, but works as a condensed, disquieting reflection of American youth culture that still shows up recognizable in the mirror.

GABRIELLE MITCHELL-MARELL teaches writing at Fordham University.  Her theater reviews have appeared in Variety.


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