Written by Eric Bogosian
Directed by David R. Gammons
Thursday–Saturday, Feb. 7-9, 14-16
Dramashop’s production of “SubUrbia” was an incredibly enjoyable and searing performance of Eric Bogosian’s original play. It shows an extremely affecting view of young adult angst which viewers can easily relate to.
The set and props are rendered in a sophisticated way. The primary stage area is set up with a realistic 7-Eleven store, outside of which the primary characters spend most of their time hanging out. The stage is made all the more believable with graffiti, payphones, and other relevant props that buoy the scenery. The music, recordings of songs played by MIT bands, is perfectly placed throughout the play to simulate the varying drama and emotions presented in each scene.
The show opens with barely-legal Jeff (Brian L. Ross ’11), Buff (Brian P. Cass ’11) and Tim (Jonas Kubilius ’08) causing chaos outside of the 7-Eleven run by Norman (Vinith Misra ’08) and Pakeesa (Hui Ying Wen ’08). They each exhibit varying emotions about life and about places besides their own town based upon their own experiences. Tim has become hardened and cynical from time spent in the army, Jeff debates life and refuses change, and Buff is rowdy and confident with his own life. These varying degrees of character portrayal mesh into an exciting first scene with varying scales of offensiveness. Norman and Pakeesa are immediately outraged by the noise they are creating as well as the offensive nature of their comments and actions, which leads to a confrontation between Norman and Tim. This scene solidly establishes the rejection of the characters to authority and change, considering that Norman and Pakeesa are not from America (i.e. outsiders to Tim, Jeff and Buff). It is in this scene that Jeff is established as the mediator and voice of reason throughout most of the chaos. This scene also establishes the general state of mind of the young adults throughout the remainder of the play.
Sooze (Erika L. Bakse ’08), Jeff’s girlfriend, and Bee-Bee (Sally E. Peach ’09), her friend, are then introduced and bring a female dynamic into the young adult chaos. Unlike Jeff, Sooze is outgoing, motivated, and enthusiastic about change, which causes much drama between the two. Meanwhile, Bee-Bee straddles the line between indifference and anguish.
The introduction of Pony (Jonathan “Yoni” A. Gray ’10), a rock star who went to high school with the group, and Erica (Kelly A. Thomas ’08) his publicist, only serves as a catalyst to the rebellion of the circle of friends. Pony, who has left town and had a strong taste of fame, returns with little fanfare from anyone besides Sooze and Buff (who only seems interested in the perks Pony has gained from celebrity). This once again brings to light the rejection of change by the other characters as Pony is treated like an outcast. Erica, on the other hand, creates an interesting dynamic due to her attraction to Tim. Tim’s cynicism has little effect on her other than piquing her interest. This leads to more conflict later in the play between Jeff and Tim. Jeff rejects Pony much like he rejects change. He wants to stay in his home town, unlike Sooze, and wants things to remain the same. For the remainder of the play, things seem to focus on Jeff as he wrestles with coming to conclusions about life and the world outside of his home town.
In general, the characters remain stagnant in their opinions throughout most of the play. Not much character growth is seen at all, even in the devastating last scene. The only real change is some acceptance and understanding gained by Jeff. Through conversations with Norman, Tim, and Sooze, Jeff begins to come to realizations about the many questions he has asked throughout the play. Little is resolved, but every theme is rigorously explored. A sense of consequences for negative choices and actions is given off by the end of the show.
“SubUrbia” is an engrossing play. Topics such as racism, global warming, sexism, idealism, and cynicism are all presented and analyzed throughout the play. The cast members attack their roles with an unyielding vigor that exposes each character’s personality clearly. These performances are outstandingly memorable and create an engaging experience — one with a poignant message for viewers.