Growing up in Suburbia; where the places contain a familiar quietness, friends are never changing, the beer never empty, and the pizza, a hidden hometown gem. A group of young adults bursting with potential, frozen by their own self-indulged helplessness, spend endless florescent-lite nights at a mini-mart parking lot parading in the same day-to-day fashion.
Director John Demita and a cast and crew of talented and dedicated College of the Canyons students and faculty is set to showcase its latest production of SubUrbia on March 27th-29th located in the Back Box Theatre.
The play is about an eclectic group of young adults aimlessly staggering through the stagnant consistency of mundane suburban life located in “Burnfield,” New Jersey. Among the somber haze of a 7-Eleven’s neon glow, the group of misfits spend their time drinking, eating Oreo’s, harassing the Pakistani convenient store owner Nazeer, conversing and ranting through out the night.
Jeff, played by Todd Hughlett, is a dreamer and sporadic student who tries to convince his artist girlfriend Sooze, played by Bre Combs, to stay in Burnfield instead of moving to New York to pursue her dreams. Buff, played by Devin Heath, is an outgoing partier, dancing and humping throughout the play, lost in his own slacker oblivion. He tries to pursue Bee-Bee, played by Celina Galang, a nurse’s aid at the critical ward of the local hospital. Then there is Tim a borderline alcoholic and Air Force veteran, played by Austen Paros.
The play contains realistic and conversational dialogue that accelerates into absurd rants and scattered outburst of activities that touch on serious subject matter, masked by dark humor. A change of pace occurs when Pony, high school friend turned semi-famous musician played by Timmy Jasperson, returns with his female publicist Erica, played by Chelsea Van Duyn, in a black limo. The reunion triggers a series of events to unfold during the course of one night that shakes the consistency into a progression towards change.
Written by Eric Bogosian, Suburbia’s first debut was held at the Lincoln Center Theatre Company’s festival of American Plays. Bogosian paints a dim and tragic look into the lives of individuals trying to overcome their idleness and fear to find their direction and purpose.
The production’s set consists of a convenient store and a parking lot where the group meets. Demita explains that the set comes out towards the audience so guests will feel like they are part of the show. Actors must make their environment come to life through natural, pedestrian-like movement and behavior, in a way that they can be visible to audience members.
For him as a director, Demita explains that one of the most rewarding parts of the watching a project evolve is when you “create an illusion that it’s all magically happening, without anyone noticing any of the plans or structure that you’ve crammed onto it or found within it and facilitated.” He loves when something looks like it wasn’t directed and happened spontaneously.
The actors had to be prepared to walk into rehearsals ready and willing to change and mold into the directors vision. Jasperson explains that when he approaches a new character he likes to discover the “similarities and differences [I] have with the characters and figure out where to take that character.” He explains that one has to “find a medium” that fits along with the directors vision and the flow of the other cast members.
Since the play is so contemporary and topical, and at times smudged with vulgarity, Demita said he helps the actors “find the most truthful performances that they can and at the same time shape the performance and production into narrative that the audience will feel relaxed into watching,” said Demita.
Hughlett explains that you have to be constantly willing to adapt when discovering the context of the play and working with the director. “I’ve learned to evolve and constantly be on my feet,” Huglett said.
Since the play is heavily grounded in reality, Demita asks his actors to explore their character and relationships with others characters in the play, and he adjust accordingly so the play contains a “slice of life” quality.
Despite the plays tragic moments, Demita hopes audience members will leave the theatre feeling optimistic that each character’s life is going to change and move forward with their lives. Instead of focusing on the failures the characters have faced, he said, “I would like them think there’s the possibility of something better happening the next day,” and, “no one will make the same mistakes.” He adds, “I’d like to find some optimistism,” because “I don’t like hopelessness as a rule.”
The play and its characters are like a slice of “Burnfield” pizza, full of flavor, tinged with grease and the humorously blunt moments is like the bitter coolness of a refreshing beer helpful for washing down the otherwise ambitious content. Satisfying till the last bite, SubUrbia will open March 27th -29th at 8pm and Saturday March 30th at 2pm and 8pm in the Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $10 and $5 for students and can be purchased at the box office or online at www.canyonspac.com. Tickets are limited so be sure to purchase tickets in advanced.