This weekend, an adaptation of Kenneth Lonergan's famous play "This is Our Youth" will fill Chase Barn with the craze of adolescent angst.
The production stems from the independent study of Francesca Perkins '10, Nicholas Lechich '10, and John Wendell '11, who star in this weekend's production. Will Bleakley '10, as the director of the play, oversaw its production in collaboration with advisor Sonja Moser.
"This is Our Youth," set in 1982, offers a snapshot into the struggle of post-adolescent life in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
"It's a really powerful portrayal of affluent urban youth," said Lechich, who along with Bleakley hails from the Upper West Side.
The play frankly portrays the lives of its adolescent characters through the drug content, curses, and insults, and its crude banter has been known to generate nervous laughter from its audience.
"I hope they laugh," said Perkins, "but it's not a light piece."
Indeed, Lechich said that the "play moves in and out of very serious and funny moments, so it's very unpredictable where the story is going."
The first scene of the play depicts what happens after one character, Warren, played by Wendell, steals $15,000 from his abusive, lingerie tycoon father and hides in his friend Dennis's (Lechich) messy Upper West Side apartment. The plot then follows Warren's exploits with love interest Jessica (Perkins), leading to a second act that Wendell called "ten times crazier than the first."
The intense first scene of "This is Our Youth" served as the initial inspiration for the formulation of the independent study; two years ago, while taking Acting I, Wendell and Lechich were assigned to perform a ten-minute scene from the play, and selected the very beginning. They spent a month working on the ten-minute excerpt, which allowed them to "really delve into it," said Wendell.
"We had such a great time with it," said Lechich. "It was always a fantasy of ours to extend it to the full version."
After witnessing the outstanding quality of Lechich and Wendell's collaboration in the abridged version, Perkins proposed that the trio form an independent study to develop the full production of the play for the spring semester.
"The hard part was finding a director, and Will Bleakley is new at it, but naturally good at [directing]...he's our overseer, a constant source of ideas," said Perkins.
Bleakley, Perkins, Wendell, and Lechich have been working on the production since winter break, and the three actors said that, aside from learning 126 pages by heart, the most challenging aspect of putting together the play was doing justice to Lonegan's characters.
"Lonegan has done a good job of laying out the limbo of post-adolescence, the push and pull between us and our parents when we are trying to break away but still have to call home to say we'll be late," said Perkins.
"On the surface, the [characters] seem like your average rich, little pot-smoking burnout rebels, but in reality it's so nuanced...to really give them justice required a tremendous amount of study," said Lechich.
Lonegan's skill at creating dialogue contributes to the biting reality that the play presents, revealing the not-so marginal problems of denigrated youth.
"It's one of the most unbelievable scripts I've ever read," said Wendell. Lonegan helped to write the screenplay for the film "Gangs of New York," and is perhaps most renowned for writing and directing the film "You Can Count on Me."
"What I'd really like the audience to think about is youth, and the dilemmas that everyone faces in those years...the play shows a learning process and that struggle to figure things out," said Perkins.
"It's really exciting for me as a graduating senior to have really committed myself to a project with three other people...I'd like to go out with a bang—[the play] is a fun way to end my time at Bowdoin," said Lechich.
The production will take place in Chase Barn in Johnson-Boody House, transformed into an apartment setting to capture the feel of the Upper West Side of the early '80s.
"All the action takes place in Dennis's Upper West Side apartment, which was an advantage for Will and I because we knew the ambiance and the persona that we were looking for," said Lechich.
Chase Barn offers the perfect dark, dusty setting for Dennis's apartment, complete with creaking floorboards that evoke the old brownstones of New York.
"Dennis is extremely messy and disorganized, and his apartment is a perfect reflection of him," said Lechich.
Seating is limited in Chase Barn. The audience is advised to arrive well in advance to secure space. "This is Our Youth" is playing tonight and tomorrow at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.