Slacker lessons from SubUrbia

See those beer-swigging guys hanging around the convenience store, dropping F-bombs, making rutting noises, and downing pizza?

Matt Dale as Buff

See those beer-swigging guys hanging around the convenience store, dropping F-bombs, making rutting noises, and downing pizza?

Well, who knew they were also arguing about Third World problems and tossing around references to nihilism and Nietzsche?

Doesn’t sound like any parking lot gang you know?

That’s the trouble with the play SubUrbia, which opened at the Scott Block in downtown Red Deer on Thursday. It’s a little too heavy on the scripted pseudo-intellectual babble.

I’m willing to bet that playwright Eric Bogosian didn’t hang out in too many parking lots doing research before writing about slackers in the 1990s — otherwise, why are several of his characters too smart talking and self-aware to be doing what they’re doing — which is a whole lot of self-destructive nothing?

Only the play’s barfing, burping party animal Buff, played by Matt Dale, comes close to resembling anyone who would spend hours and hours hanging around a 7-Eleven.

College drop-out, Jeff (Sam Stewart), and his airforce drop-out buddy, Tim, (Chris Cook), seem, despite their alcohol dependencies, to be too on-the-ball to sit curb-side and piss their lives away. (Note to readers: if you found that last phrase offensive then you should in NO way see this play, which takes humping and obscene language to new levels.)

But despite the script ringing somewhat false at times and focusing on a whole lot of seemingly pointless goofing, there are still good reasons to see SubUrbia — if you can take the subject matter and a lot of cigarette smoke.

First, this is the debut full-length production by a promising new Red Deer company, Against The Wall Theatre. And young director Jenna Goldade proves very capable of handling the nine-person cast and some difficult subject matter, and still giving the audience a fairly diverting evening of theatre.

There’s also a fantastically detailed retail set, designed by Kalon McClarty, and solid performances from the acting ensemble.

Maybe Stewart and Cook’s characters shouldn’t realistically be hanging around a parking lot, but we all know people like Jeff and Tim.

Jeff, once a big fish in high school, is afraid of failure, so he tries to hold back his girlfriend, Sooze, from her dream of moving to New York to keep her from out-stripping him.

Insecure Tim, who hates the industrious Pakistani brother and sister (played by Kevin Basi and Chantel Quintal) who run the convenience store he loafs in front of, is also afraid of life.

And, like all racists, he finds it easier to blame others for his shortcomings.

Both Stewart and Cook are naturalistic actors who can create moments when the audience understands where their often unpleasant characters are coming from.

The ensemble also includes Alexandra Mihill as the just out-of-rehab chick Bee-Bee, and Eliza Benzer who plays the sometimes grating performance artist, Sooze,

Coming from the right side of the tracks are Pony, the rising rock star, and his PR assistant Erica, who’s played as an experience junkie by Rivera Reese.

Some of the play’s more interesting moments centre on how Jeff and Tim react when their former musician friend, Pony, (Adam Hegge) returns to their suburb glowing with success and riding in a stretch limo. (As you might guess, not well).

Besides the strong performances in this production, the No. 1 reason to see SubUrbia is that it’s about young, disaffected people — and how many other plays have attempted to examine what makes them that way? Goldade thinks too many people her age believe theatre’s not relevant. Well, SubUrbia shows plays can also reflect the concerns of 20 year olds.

So what does Bogosian have to tell us about alienated youth who feel disconnected from society, their parents, the work world, school, and sometimes even each other?

We learn that hanging around a parking lot is their way of connecting.

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