Theatre Mirror Reviews - "SubUrbia"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Beverly Creasey

SpeakEasy's Knockout Suburban Punch

by Beverly Creasey

"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose..."

If I were twenty-something I'd sure take umbrage at what Eric Bogosian is saying about that generation. What the heck, I'll take it anyway. "Suburbia" is Bogosian's frightening view of our future. According to Bogosian, our prospects are pretty bleak with these drugged-out losers soon to inherit the earth.

If this tale of suburban woe were a movie (and it evidently is now) then these bad boys would be simply some misguided post-high school dropouts; but on stage everything takes on larger proportions. I think Bogosian think's he's writing an "Everyman" for the X Generation.

The SpeakEasy Stage's production is practically flawless --- except that nobody flinches when beer cans are lobbed right at them --- but the play itself is pretty hard to swallow, especially when hotheads brandishing guns practice such remarkable restraint. Not to give the plot away, suffice it to say that three young men from the burbs have given up on themselves. They spend their nights getting high in the parking lot of a convenience store, whose Pakistani owner is the object of their threats and racial insults. "Smoke, babes and blow" are their only aspirations.

Director Steve Maler has chosen to emphasize the dread, not the comedy in "Suburbia" so the tragedy of their lives (not of the hokey ending) resonates like crazy. Susan Zeeman Rogers' Mini Mart set is the undisputed star of the show. I swear they stole my corner store and reassembled it at the BCA. Lighting designer John Malinowski even manages to duplicate the eerie flourescent glow these little stores give off.

The ensemble actors practically sizzle on SpeakEasy's tarmac: Davidlee Wilson is rivetting as the idealistic pessimist; Willy O'Donnell provides the comic relief as the coked-out Buff; Michael McLaughlin is so intense as the short-fused Tim that you'll have nightmares about convenience stores; Amir-Hooman Darvish is so centered as the voice of reason amidst chaos that you almost believe such a person could exist; Shonali Banerjee's performance crackles with anxiety as his frightened sister. Kate Luhr exudes pain as the alcoholic outsider even when she sits quietly at the side of the stage; Valerie Stanford gives a luminescent performance as the only one of these trapped rats who wants to get out. Everyone escapes through booze and drugs.

Rik Sansone has the most difficult role in the play because he is the hero who made it out. He has to make us believe he's a rock star who still misses home. Sansone delivers on all counts with a quiet but powerfully charismatic portrayal. Sims McCormick comes through loud and clear as his restless, foolhardy assistant, all too willing to play with fire. Marguerite Scott's marvelous costumes are so tragically hip, it's a wonder Ms. Luhr can walk on her sparkly platform sneakers without breaking both ankles.

"SubUrbia" (in rep) (till 5 April)
BCA Theater, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide