Aug. 27, 2004





Twenty-somethings on the make


Post-adolescent groping--for meaning and true love as well as for cheap sex--drives Wendy MacLeod's aptly named "Juvenilia." In roughly real time over the course of one aimless Friday night, the play traces the would-be peccadilloes of four twentysomethings on the verge of dubious graduation from a second-rate liberal arts college.


MacLeod seems to aim for a trenchant, post-politically correct tone in her treatment of class, race and gender politics, as the play's three well-off white students try to rope a fourth--a middle-class African-American woman--into a voyeuristic "three-way."


But the effect here is Neil LaBute Lite, at least in director Leslie Morgan's overly emphatic new production. Paradoxically, by having her actors overplay both the comedy and the straight stuff--in the characters' knowing pop-culture parlance, by putting everything in quotation marks--Morgan takes the edge off McLeod's material.


To be sure, the broad strokes are in the script: Brodie (Scott Butler) is a macho slut who pretends not to care for anyone; his steely, perfect girlfriend Meredith (Vanessa Long) has the precocious cynicism of the alternately spoiled and neglected rich kid. Roommate Henry (Ryan Churchill) is sensitive and needy, a confused good guy with a crush on their neighbor Angie (Chris Brown), a professed Christian who proves more game than they'd imagined.


The sweetly befuddled Churchill comes off best, though even he's mugging a bit. Like Scott Butler's overly tidy dorm room set, the performances in "Juvenilia" are just too simply drawn to reveal any messy truths. Count this a college try.

--Rob Kendt


"Juvenilia," the Faultline Theatre Company at the Gardner Stages, 1501 N. Gardner St., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Ends Sept. 12. $15. (323) 461-0689. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.