Eric Bogosian’s play SubUrbia, which opens tonight, Oct 12, at Temple’s Randall Theater, is the coming-of-age-story of eight Gen X’ers. Finding themselves at a crossroads in life, these young twenty-somethings discover the unsettling feeling that maybe where they are isn’t where they should be. Set in the parking lot of a convenience store, SubUrbia explores the emptiness that life has to offer these “privileged” kids.
I had the opportunity to interview Jan Silverman, the director of the production.
Temple News: What first interested you in this piece?
Silverman: It just seemed like a really exciting play. I had seen it years ago when it was done as a project. I think that it’s a great opportunity for young actors-the characters are the right age-the piece really allows them to tap into their fullest ability. For me this play is a big change of pace. I’ve done a lot of classics, and the roughness and raw energy of this play are very different compared with the finesse and polish of a classical piece.
TN: What do you think is the playwright’s main message?
Silverman: Well, Bogosian capitalizes the second “u” in SubUrbia for a reason: these characters are not sophisticated or urban, nor are they rural-they are sub-urban, not quite urban. He calls the town they live in Burnfield. I think he’s talking about scorched earth. The culture, the situation that they are living in, doesn’t provide nourishment for young lives. The characters talk about streams near them that are deserted, trees cut down for condos…families in chaos. There is a notion in our society of an older generation handing down traditions and values to the new generation, but here there has been a disconnection. These kids feel that their parents have blown it, so they don’t really know how to go on with their own lives. It’s actually a very bleak view that Bogosian presents. Although, I think that for Jeff (played by Bruce Walsh), and what he represents, there is hope. Jeff tries so hard to be decent and to find meaning in his life, that we hope maybe he’ll find what he’s looking for. Bogosian presents young people in a disintegrating society. They are stuck, not moving forward. And for those who want to move on, like Sooze (Maggie Surovell), they don’t know how to get there. Or Pony (the “rock-star” friend who has made it, played by Dan Little), who finds out that it’s not what he thought it would be.
TN: Having already moved past this stage in your life, what was it like for you directing this play?
Silverman: Very interesting. As a director, I’ve experienced imaging many different worlds, time periods but never another, younger, generation. Despite the cultural differences, these problems that the characters are facing in SubUrbia are totally recognizable to me…[I remember] having to invent myself as an adult in a world that I hadn’t created but that I had to deal with… It’s very scary. Suddenly you are having to make all these decisions that will effect the rest of your life. You discover how unforgiving the world can be. It’s always a struggle, even if you come of age in a time where there is little turmoil…I looked into a future and saw many opportunities and these characters look into the future and they don’t see anything. This is especially true of Tim (Christopher Fluck) and Bee-Bee (Kyra Baker.) And Buff too. Buff (Ted Canh) is kind of the party animal, but I think he keeps partying because he doesn’t like what he finds when he stops to see.
TN: What do you hope audiences will take away from this production?
Silverman: I just hope that they find it an exciting and moving experience. I hope it makes them think about what happens and makes them remember it. As Bogosian says, this is awkward, rough, in-your-face, physical theater-and it’s alive.
SubUrbia runs Oct. 12-21. Randall Theater. Tickets are FREE with GAF. For time and other information call the Temple Arts Box Office: 215-204-1122.