Heart of Gold, Dropout Arts, Soulstice Theatre, This is Our Youth

He’s slumming it, holed up in a hard to access apartment that makes his visitors traverse an obstacle course of doors, stairs and narrow passages to get in his company. He likes it better that way. He’s kind of high-strung, domineering and paranoid, a “real-player” in the criminal underworld in his own mind. Cops, Feds, fellow crooks? Dennis (Claudio Parrone, Jr.) has them all outsmarted.

His friends are a band of degenerate, damaged and party-loving kids, especially Warren (Jalen Jacob Bernard). His gangly frame shudders faintly with petrified fear in every mannerism and phrase he utters. Who can blame him, he’s got enough bad childhood experiences to fill a large suitcase. Unwanted, abused and unappreciated by everyone he knows, including his father. He finds his only solace in the possession of Dennis, green-leaves that fit nicely into a glass pipe when smashed, carrying the powers of escape. Dennis makes him pay in more ways than one to get the keys to his mental trailer home. They together no doubt will find ways to go further.

In web of bad decisions and boredom, Jessica (Erin Nichole Eggers) enters a stranger and becomes a familiar face in no time. Are you really a stranger if the same pretense guiding everyone else guides your every step? Thoughts in the same narrow frequency of youth, in convenient emotional proximity, transmit the answer, assuredly. The only question might be your name, and does that really even matter?Spiraling in the same notebook, filled back to front with scribbles and incoherent ideas, they flip through looking for another inch to scratch something down. It’ll surely be a disaster no matter what.

No Adults Here

Co-Directors Robb T. Preston and Claudio Parrone Jr. take Kenneth Lonergan’s playbill This is Our Youth and run their own adaptation, working their own angles in physical and dramatic space creating a believable and at times appropriately cringeworthy, interplay between character, prop, and scenic design.   

Lonergan’s, piece written in 1996 and set in 1982, rings relevant today as he gives personage to one of American society’s most unreachable crevices, urban upper-class youth. In this context, Preston and Parrone Jr. work magic through Dennis and Warren, superimposing the starkest contrast of relationships found in youth and adult social adjustment. 

Originally, staged by Lonergan in the realm of New York Jew-dom, Dropout Arts’ creative team opens this capsule to by casting Barnard, who is conceivably African-American, as Warren and Parrone who is conceivably Italian-American, as Dennis. Whether they intend color-blind or alternative casting is not entirely clear however, the impact is stunning as the audience must suddenly put in perspective the implications of a rich black kid, not hardened by the dark corners of poverty, being bullied and emasculated repeatedly by a rich white kid emboldened by a white social reality that privileges Dennis as the alpha dog, by custom and birthright. 

Jessica (Eggers) floats into the story with the controlled abandon of a jaded-bohemian we can today attribute to the urban suburban-transplant hipster chick, reveling in her delusions of personal independence and social indignation towards anything established, while being tethered to her intact stable home-life. 

She is convincing as curious, conniving, mercurial and opportunistic. Warren (Benard) in his own right the same, as unrecognizably mamed from serial invalidation; Parrone’s portrayal of Dennis, game-enough for a larger marquee, while evoking a certain vile, yet infectious, brand of misygony enough to where you may want to spit or play wack-a-brat on a ficticious character.

This is Our Youth runs tonite September 18 and Saturday September 19 at 7:30p at Soulstice Theatre (although Thursday’s performance time was listed at 8:00p and started a little bit after to allow people to arrive). Run time is a little long at 2 hours 15 minutes, and on positive note doesn’t drag on to make it feel that long.

Production credits of Dropout Arts run of This is Our Youth also go to Parrone (Technical Director), Zach Rosado and Jessica Greenhoe (Stage Management), Preston (Sound Design), Cristian Torres Gomez (Set design), Leah Lynn Preston and Taylor Halvorsen (Graphics and Marketing, and Nicholas Ravnikar (Dramaturg). 

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