By Holli Harms
As an audience, what you want from a theatrical production is to pull you into the characters and story. When the characters in the story are on the stage living out the story, then the characters draw you in and communication happens. When it doesn’t happen, when the characters are simply moving from point A to point B, moving with no connection to their place in the narrative, then sadly the fourth wall thickens, leaving the audience out of the story altogether. Unfortunately, a large part of Teenagers In Love, does that, keeping the audience at arm’s length in what is a compelling story of friendship, young love, and a tragic accident that will separate friends and family for decades.
It is 45 years since the death of her younger brother, Donnie (Alexander Chilton), and Becca (Renata Hinrichs) is back home to meet with her high school love, Harp (Wayne Maugans), and find out exactly what happened the night of Donnie’s death.
The play jumps back and forth between the present and the past where Young Becca (Ziggy Schulting) and Young Harp (Jack Rasmussen) are madly in love and are at their local bar celebrating their last night as “kids” before they graduate from high school and step into life. They are there with their best friends, Young Ben (Jacobi Hall), Bonnie (Kaitlyn Mitchell) Ben’s girlfriend, and Gladys (Jackie Maruschka) the bar owner and friend to the kids. This is the night that will change all their lives.
There are also others ( played by the actors) possibly ghosts, some kind of apparitions, and to be honest, I and my guest were so confused by their presence as every scene moved at cracker-jack speed and the staging did nothing to help our understanding. There was in the beginning, no time for us to grasp who was what and what was where.
In the scenes at the bar, it is the 70s and everyone is stoned but stoned people don’t yell and act like they are on some insane drug that has them talking and acting like crazed individuals. This is not stoned, this is simply out of control and the out of control is fun for the actors but we the audience are left out and at some point stop trying to find our way in.
The moments between Older Harp, Becca, and Older Ben (Jeff Woods Garlin) are grounded and heartfelt. Harp and Ben each have a truth that they must face. A truth that they have been hiding all these years and would have continued to hide had Becca not gone after the truth. But the truth will not set Becca free. It will crush her world even further than her brother’s death.
And there are the quiet scenes with Young Ben and Donnie that are reflective of the depth of teenage angst for the future and the paths they will take.
Teenagers In Love is a layered, murder mystery, coming-of-age story that woefully gets lost in the twists and turns of staging and disconnections.
TEENAGERS IN LOVE stars Alexander Chilton, Jeff Woods Garlin, Jacobi Hall, Renata Hinrichs, Jackie Maruschak, Wayne Maugans, Kaitlyn Mitchell, Jack Rasmussen and Ziggy Schulting.
Creative Team: Amy Ludlow (costumes), Chris D’Angelo (lighting), Ed Matthew (sound), Ken Wolf (production manager), Rod Kinter (co-fight director), Susana Montoya Quinchia (co-fight director) and Henry Hanson(stage manager).
TEENAGERS IN LOVE runs June 2 – 17 with performances Monday & Wednesday – Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. The Chain Theatre is located at 312 W 36th Street between 8th & 9th Avenues, New York, NY 10018. Tickets HERE
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission