Friday, June 27, 2014

This Is Our Youth, Steppenwolf 2014

Yesterday night I treated myself to a date at Steppenwolf theatre. I had snagged a student rush ticket at box office open. I had a big tomato for dinner. I walked the dimming Chicago streets in my white lace flats. This Is Our Youth was good.
Here are some things I experienced and thought about:
-I chose to walk up the four flights to the Upstairs Alley space instead of taking the elevator. I saw posters from previous blockbusters. Historic. Legacy is important.
-Michael Cera basically played the same person he always does. So, not like a fat impressive feat, but he was really really good. And that's nice. If film/TV people have to be shoed onto Broadway, at least they're good.
-The play was enjoyable and interesting. It was also a very typical American drama. It affected me, but not in a way that is particularly new to me.
-The play was written in 1996, set in 1982, and completely applicable in 2014. I applaud the playwright for making something timeless. Besides the convention of the landline telephone, these kids could be having the same conversations today.
-In the talkback a woman commented she didn't think the 80s vibe came through. Yeah, there was a record player, but the verbiage and dress and feeeeel weren't that of her youth. I would have to agree...but it was written in '96, so no one can accuse the playwright of making it too current.
-In the talkback some people discussed the characters as real people, others described the play as art, a high school girl in the front row squirmed and said "like" every other word. Usually she might seem like a stupid too-young culture-attempting child--but we had just seen high schoolers for two hours stumble their "likes" and still maintain importance, heart. Tonight, the theatre sort of belonged to this teen more than anyone else.
-There were a few other criticisms of the play. In fact, I would say half of the comments bent negative. Wow. This play is friggin going to Broadway and schmucks off the street are still badmouthing it half-heartedly. You're just not gonna please everyone. This was important to experience as a playwright.
-Live theatre IS special. There were two times the entire audience gasped. It felt so good, so magnetic, to grasp in my hands. I will never forget those two moments. One was more surprise, and one came from our collective gut.
-At the very beginning of the talkback a woman raised her hand and said, "We didn't get it. Four women, all educated adults, we didn't get it." The moderator opened it up to the audience and a couple people sort of said what they got out of the play. I got something out of the play. Maybe not something I learned, but the play helped me solidified something I have thought before. But I wouldn't say that's what the play meant in general. I wanted to explain, "Sometimes the playwright doesn't give you a clear message, but then it's your duty to take home the themes and live your life differently because of how you interpreted them." But that would have sounded oh so pretentious. And then I was just really grateful for my literature education. How terrible to think there is a right way to experience a play.
-It was a three-person cast. All v good. In the talkback everyone kept referring to the one female character as "the girl." This is partially the audience's fault for remembering the two male names and not having the courtesy to remember JESSICA. But. Also. The first, like 40 minutes of the play involves the two guys talking about the cute girl, the cute girl Jessica, etc. So, she is just a girl. And then when she's literally the only appearing girl in the world of the play, she's just "the girl." Perhaps you might argue this is part of the atheistic of a play with two main young male protagonists--Jessica IS just "the girl." Ya know? Anyhoo, why not sidestep the whole thing and just write more than one woman or make her more important? I mean, yeah, I get it. I'm not gonna be the woman in the talkback insisting there be a woman in the one-man show about a man and his grandfather (true story of something I experienced once)--just something to consider.

My Personal Interpretation of the Play's Thesis:
-Do not offer things you do not want to give to make other people happy. You are not making them happy. You are not making you happy. Keep the cap.

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