29 August 2011

Review: The Aliens

The Aliens
Red Stitch Actors Theatre
27 August 2011
Red Stitch
to 24 September

On realising that The Aliens was another work about young disillusioned American youth on July the fourth, I was as disillusioned as a disillusioned American youth who has realised that the American Dream is a crock. But it didn't last, as this is a fascinating and beautiful study of young men drifting from love and home.

American writer Annie Baker is only just 30 and has already won significant awards for her plays Body Awareness and Circle Mirror Transformation (which is on at the MTC this month). The Aliens is her third major work and was nominated for an Obie (the Off-Broardway Theatre awards given by The Village Voice – the Off-Broadway Tonys).

All three are set in a fictional Vermont town called Shirley. Shirley's fiction enables her to easily transform into any city. Even with northern hemisphere accents and references, it was no stretch to see the same world a short walk from Red Stitch's theatre, in any direction.

Heartbroken novelist Jasper (Brett Cousins) and shroom-loving college drop out KJ (Brett Ludeman) spend their days in a filthy alley behind a new-age cafe. Their comfortable silence is strangely comfortable to watch and the intrusion of high school student Evan (David Harrison), who works part time in the cafe before going to Jewish band camp, lets them talk about their band with many names, Bukowski's poems, their respective genius minds and their attempts at reaching to women for comfort.

Baker's gentle writing lets us observe and accept without judgement.  Her exposition is such a part of their conversation that is goes unnoticed and her story is so subtle that the impact of its climax is unexpected, especially as director Nadia Tass is unafraid of the silence and lets her actors use the time to create men we know and recognise.

This is writing needs time to settle into the hearts of its audience, but its sparseness creates a world that is far more familiar than alien.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

Photo by David Parker