“This Is Our Youth” is easily one of the most convincing plays I have ever seen. So good, in fact, that I actually saw it for the second time the other night. Granted the premise and concept may seem a bit painfully gen-X, but the dialogue and acting manage to so perfectly capture the essence of three very specific kinds of people that you can’t help but marvel at it. The play takes place in Dennis Ziegler’s Upper West Side bedroom, a sparsely decorated filthy studio paid for by his rich parents, who are most likely just happy to have him out of their own apartment. As Dennis struggles to figure out his life, bike messengering for drug money, the rest of the people from his privileged world are off at college and pursuing self-sufficient lives. Enter Dennis’ sloppy, shy and stoner friend Warren.
The story focuses on a tumultuous twenty-hour period when Warren drops by, having just run away from his father’s house with $15,000 stolen from a suspicious looking briefcase that he found in the den. The two are your typical 20 year-old rich New York kids, too lethargic and unmotivated to actually go or stay in college, but too well educated to actually be happy doing nothing. Life for them is a series of small entertaining shenanigans that they come up with on what seems like a daily basis. This time they come up with the simple plan to buy $1,500 worth of cocaine, sell it for a profit, and then take a couple of girls over to the Plaza to celebrate. One of the girls is Dennis’ girlfriend, who we never actually meet, and the other is a girl Warren has a crush on but has never actually been able to build up the courage to have a conversation with.
But like any semi-great plan, the seams begin to rip and the weight of the world becomes heavier and heavier. As cliche and plotless as this might seem on the surface, writer Kenneth Longergan has created such completely credible and believable collection of “types” that it would be hard not to find yourself temporarily enveloped in their world. Even more credit is due to the actors, considering the fact that the play clocks in at just over two hours. For a three-person performance where there is almost non-stop dialogue, this is a tremendous feat.
From the very first moments the actors are able to snap into character and remain locked in for the entire performance. Each character becomes so completely defined and real that by the time the end of the play is reached that you can’t help really “feeling their pain-” and then kind of wishing you were young enough to enjoy making the same mistakes.