Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

This Is Our Youth
Custom Made Theatre Company

Also see Richard's reviews of King Lear, The Oldest Boy, For the Love of Comrades


David Raymond and Sam Bertken
Custom Made Theatre Company has finally moved into the former Tides Theatre, now called The Custom Made Theatre just off Union Square and their first production in the new space is Kenneth Lonergan's This is Our Youth. This drama premiered in 1996 in New York Off-Broadway with Josh Hamilton and Mark Ruffalo in the lead roles. Recently, Michael Cera played the role of Warren, and Kieran Culkin performed the role of Dennis on Broadway. At Custom Made, director Brian Katz has cast two gifted young actors Sam Bertken as Warren and David Raymond as Dennis.

The time period is 1982 and the place an apartment on the Upper West Side in New York. Kenneth Lonergan's script is spot-on in capturing the way 19 and 21 year olds speak to each other even in today's world. This is a great old-fashioned play about some old-fashioned millionaires' kids.

It's a story of two mismatched young men. Warren (Sam Bertken) is a nice young man who is somewhat of a nerd while Dennis is a wired-up coke-head who has delusions of grandeur. He treats Warren as part punching bag and part plaything in between financial planning sessions and purchasing bags of pot. Oh, these are straight heterosexuals. Apparently, Warren likes to be man-handled, something like it would be in the gay world of S & M. And Warren has not been laid for many months and he does have "the hots" for a girl named Jessica (Katie Robbins), whom the audience meets later.

Warren has just arrived at Dennis' apartment with a bag of cash amounting to $15,000. He swiped it from his lingerie businessman father who happens to have it just laying around the house. Warren is now looking for somewhere to stay. Of course Dennis takes the geek in. Later, Warren meets Jessica, the girl he lusts for. There are some sweet scenes between the two and you can feel the aching incompetence of youth between them. Much more goes on that I won't disclose.

What makes this production remarkable is the cast of three actors who do outstanding work. Sam Bertken gives a first rate performance as Warren. You can see just a little of Michael Cera in him but he actually makes the role his own. There is even some resonance with Holden Caulfield from JD Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye." David Raymond gives a pitch perfect performance as the wired Dennis. The egocentric words that flow from his mouth are simply amazing. He gives a perfect performance as someone on speed. Katie Robbins completes the cast and her performance is striking. In the relatively little time she has on stage she provides a level of detail and nuance this is impressive.

Brian Katz' direction is razor sharp and perceptive. The set by Steward Lyle is a detailed, somewhat upscale studio room in 1982 in New York; costumes by Brooke Jennings are of their era.

This is Our Youth runs through October 17th, 2015, at the new Custom Made Theatre, 533 Sutter Street at Powell, San Francisco. For tickets go to www.custommade.org.


Photo: Jay Yamada


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