Review :: This Is Our Youth

March 21st 2012

The lights go down, then completely off, plunging a very expectant opening night audience into total darkness. You can feel the necks craning to get a glimpse of the stars of the show, who, you know, maybe you’ve heard of.

Lights on and the scene is set. This Is Our Youth – we wish. A New York apartment, sparse, gritty and presumably reminiscent of the apartments of many of our youths if we were Upper West Side rich kids. Perched on the edge of the squalid mattress is – drum roll – a Culkin! A real, live Culkin!

Herein, frankly, lies a considerable portion of the show’s pull – it’s sheer celebrity power. It’s not every day we get young Hollywoodites gracing our Australian stages. We’re two degrees from Michael Jackson here people! Culkin (Kieran, aka the very-angry-without-much-reason Dennis) youths around for a while until a buzzer disturbs him.

Enter Michael Cera (aka Culkin’s hapless whipping boy Warren). Michael Cera! You know him from the TV! Culkin and Cera are two Upper West Side Jewish youths-without-causes. Culkin deals drugs, Cera buys drugs and has stolen $15,000 from his violent and quasi-criminal father. Drama ensues.

Enter Emily Barclay (aka the girl that Cera is crushing on). Emily Barclay! An Australian doing a pretty darn good American accent! Barclay is Jessica, and adeptly so. She nerves around the stage, all shaky legs and awkward stuttering, a perfectly snarky dream girl to Cera’s bumbling Romeo. An all-too-realistic portrayal of teenage seduction ensues.

The first half of the show ends. There’s been a lot of laughs, and the actors seem to be easing in a little more, despite rather theatre-self-conscious beginnings from the filmies. Second half, we’re ready. More drama ensues. Things get real. The laughs continue, but are fewer and farther between.

This Is Our Youth was penned by the oft-lauded Kenneth Lonergan (oft-lauded for efforts like The Waverley Gallery, less lauded for those such as The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle). It is at heart a funny and at times painfully accurate portrayal of those hazy years between high school and ‘real life’, those glorious few years of sticky sexual encounters, teenaged angst, and the glimmering optimism that you’re not going to end up like your parents.

The Opera House production might feel a little dated (it is set in 1982 after all), and the leads might not live up to the palpable expectations of audiences (though they certainly did for the large group of teenage girls that swamped Cera later that night, whose expectations may have been nothing more than occupying the same building as the shorter-than-you’d-expect-but-just-as-cute Cera). At the end of the day, though, I can’t deny I laughed a lot, I didn’t get bored, and I fulfilled my life-long dream of seeing a Culkin in the flesh, and that’s certainly a worthy effort in my books.

What: This Is Our Youth

Where: The Opera House

When: Every night until Sunday March 25th, matinees on the weekends

How much: $89 – $109 – sadly, the show is all sold out, but the Opera House will release any last minute tickets prior to the shows, so keep your TV eye on the website.


Read more from Nick La Rosa