It’s been nearly two decades since Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth first appeared with its searing portrait of college-age entitlement and ennui. The drama, which helped launch the career of Mark Ruffalo as well as Lonergan, is now back in a crackling Broadway revival by director Anna D. Shapiro that runs through Jan. 4 following a successful run this summer at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre.
In their Broadway debuts, Kieran Culkin and Michael Cera establish an appropriately uneasy rapport as two Manhattan trustifarian stoners, the progeny of a famous painter and a lingerie tycoon who seem to want very little to do with their college-dropout sons. Culkin’s Dennis is a bike messenger and sometime dope dealer with a serious alpha-dog streak, while Cera’s Warren is a depressive ne’er-do-well and perpetual hanger-on who gets kicked out of his dad’s place and turns up at Dennis’ Upper West Side studio apartment with a giant suitcase and $15,000 of his dad’s cash.
Culkin is sensational as Dennis, a talkative schemer whose occasional stumbles in no way impede his innate sense of self-confidence. Cera is nearly as strong as Warren, a willfully quirky boy who collects action figures and vintage toasters and who endures Dennis’ poetic rants of invective against him like a pound puppy who craves attention no matter what form it takes. When Dennis taunts him with, ”What kind of talent for misery do you have?” Warren replies, ”I don’t know. I guess I’m pretty advanced.”
The cast is rounded out by Tevi Gevinson, the real-life fashion blogger turned actress, as the motormouthed FIT student and reluctant object of Warren’s affections. At 18, Gevinson is closer to her character’s age than her castmates—but she can seem less at ease on stage for reasons that have nothing to do with Jessica’s natural discomfort hanging out in a strange apartment with a virtual stranger. The part is a bit underwritten, to be fair, though a more experienced stage actress might have drawn more out of Jessica than her frustration with Warren’s socially maladroit ways.
The well-appointed Broadway production helps underscore some of the script’s essential irony: Todd Rosenthal’s set includes an intimate re-creation of Dennis’ messy early-’80s pad, with six stories of post-war-apartment-building façade looming in the background. Only a Dennis Ziegler, or a Broadway producer, could afford such an elaborate set for such an intimate play. B+