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"This is Our Youth," show #821

Kenneth Lonergan was on to something when he wrote This is Our Youth. 1982 was a year that provided uncertainty for older teens; Dennis, Warren, and Jessica are just trying to navigate teenage-adulthood. However, with Reaganomics, the War on Drugs beginning to rage, and a New York landscape that is anything but inviting, these three well-crafted characters are simply managing the best they can. Director Brad Myers, who gets every ounce of vulnerability and shock out of his cast, has delivered an emotionally charged, well-executed production of this play.

(L to R: Andrew B. Mickelson (Dennis) and Tyler Murphy (Warren); Photo Credit: University Theatre/Miguel Gastelum)

The evening I saw the show, Andrew B. Mickelson played Dennis, Tyler Murphy played Warren, and Brianne Avina played Jessica (the roles are alternately played by Wade Pierson, Carlos Sanchez, and Kathryn Deanna Andres, respectively). Mickelson’s volatile, well-of-emotions-runs-deep delivery of Dennis is potent and pleasantly jarring. Mickelson accomplishes the walking on a thin line of getting the audience to root for him–not an easy task for such an egotistical “bro” who insults everyone. Mickelson’s performance comes to a triumph in his long-winded breakdown, attempting to alter his life’s course. Tyler Murphy gives a true actor’s performance, playing the long game in his arc which takes Warren from dopey sidekick to confident, experienced, and outspoken ruler of his domain. Murphy’s friendly chemistry opposite Mickelson comes across as genuine and painted with childhood history, which is a necessary component to helping the audience believe why they would still be friends.

(Brianne Avina (Jessica); Photo Source: University Theatre/Miguel Gastelum)

Rounding out the cast is a fantastic performance by Avina, giving her Jessica a feelings-on-her-sleeve likeability that leaves room for her comedic outbursts and heartfelt condolences towards Warren. The instant chemistry between Murphy and Avina is a well-paced hit off the romantic bong (to use a central motif in this play), giving their evening of intimacy a degree of realism while still having a heightened sense of idealistic romance.

Myers helms the play in a way which allows the actors to aid the dated jargon with variation in delivery, earning their pauses, and providing great physical moments of comedy, intimacy, and aggression. Jeff Hunter’s cozy-yet-spacious scenic design allows for the feel of a dingy, New York apartment to come across while still giving plenty of room for drugs, mattress lounging, and record-playing. This is Our Youth is a show which still resonates, as it comments on how our youth turn to–whether by nature or (lack of) nurture in this country–whatever is accessible to help them cope with what is lacking in their lives at the time. Youth go through serious problems, and they go through serious triumphs. This production ensures that those messages are delivered responsibly and with integrity. Go see this show!

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