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'This is Our Youth' on Broadway stands test of time

Michael Cera plays the awkward and anxious Warren

Michael Cera plays the awkward and anxious Warren in "This is Our Youth." Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe

Nearly two decades after its New York debut, "This is Our Youth," Kenneth Lonergan's play about privileged, aimless youth, opened on Broadway on Thursday with critics praising its young actors for their funny, spot-on performances.

The play, set in a Manhattan apartment in 1982, chronicles 48 hours in the lives of three friends on the cusp of adulthood, coping with life, parents and each other.

"Brat pack comes of age onstage," said the New York Post newspaper about the play starring Kieran Culkin, Michael Cera and newcomer Tavi Gevinson in their Broadway debuts.

New York's Daily News newspaper lauded the trio "whose portraits are right on the money," and the New York Times described it as "a sensational, kinetically charged revival."

Culkin, known for his film roles in "Igby Goes Down" and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," plays the domineering Dennis, a small-time, drug-dealing bicycle messenger whose artist father pays his rent.

He constantly berates his friend, the wimpy, nerdy Warren, played by Cera ("Juno," "Superbad") for his lack of a sex life and dumb questions.

Gevinson, a fashion blogger who also had a small role in "Enough Said," is Warren's love interest.

After Warren has an argument with his father and steals $15,000 from his briefcase, he seeks advice and a place to stay with Dennis. The two devise a plan to make up the money Warren has already spent on drugs and to repay his father.

"Cera mines every ounce of Warren's comedy and ache," the Daily News said about the 26-year-old actor. "His forlorn charm - he's always standing with his palms up, as if in supplication - makes you want to hug him."

The New York Times also had nothing but praise for Cera.

"All lanky limbs in search of a stance, his Warren reminds you of the adolescent agony of not quite knowing who you are while being smart enough to know that you don’t know," it said.

Although the Hollywood Reporter thought Culkin, 31, who played Warren in the London stage production many years ago, was too old, it still found his performance enthralling.

"He perfectly captures Dennis’ youthful braggadocio, as well as his carefully hidden insecurities," it said.

Despite her lack of theatrical experience, Gevinson, 18, held her own in the Steppenwolf production.

"Trying to protect herself, but also willing to trust Warren, her Jessica speaks with a vehemence underlined by uncertainty," said the New York Post.

Although Lonergan's play opened Off-Broadway 18 years ago, its themes of confusion and angst are still relevant to today's youth.

"What he captures so beautifully, in this work that made his name as a playwright, is the sense of being lost, formless and on your own that descends as adolescence comes to an end and every feeling seems to contradict itself," the New York Times said.


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