Back to ‘Suburbia’

Do you remember the kids in your hometown that used to smokecigarettes and drink beer on the corner all day? Well, now’s yourchance to revisit them in Jayson Kochan’s production of EricBogosian’s play, “Suburbia.”

I got a chance to talk to Kochan, the director of the show. Hesaid, “The whole show is basically about kids stuck in a suburbansetting, the different reasons they try to escape and the certainobstacles that they run into when they’re trying to escape, and howit’s really easy to get caught in that void … just hanging outdrinking beer, not really doing anything.”

In Kochan’s production, Paul Glazier successfully creates atruly pathetic lead named Jeff. I saw Monday’s dress rehearsal, andevery time Jeff started an argument with his girlfriend Sooze(played by Erin Way) I found myself wishing that for Jeff’s ownsake he would overcome his angry ennui and do something with histime other than smoke cigarettes and watch his best friend Tim(Steve Brian) drink Pabst from morning till night while verballybashing all non-whites.

Richard Linklater (of “Dazed and Confused” and “Slacker” fame)adapted the play into a film that came out in 1996. The racialtensions that the movie version softened up threaten to erupt intoviolence in Kochan’s version. The character Tim, played by SteveBrian, made me jump out of my chair when he abruptly struck a metaldumpster with a baseball bat while threatening a Pakistaniconvenience store employee. Jeff’s frequent tolerance of Tim,coupled with his belated attempt to restrain his abusive friend,tells us that Jeff is only willing to act when it becomes apparentthat if he doesn’t, a catastrophe will come to pass.

This dangerous habit of waiting until the last minuteforeshadows the gloomy possibility that Jeff will never get out ofhis native suburban town or feel content with his environment.

But there is still some hope for these kids. When an old friendwho’s become a successful MTV generation rock star comes home tovisit them, he becomes enamored of Sooze’s gritty, leftistperformance art. Sooze dreams of New York City and a career as anartist.

The rock star character Pony (played by Brian Koch), representsthe real possibility of escape from suburbia. Even though he hasescaped, he proclaims that, “life on the road is hell.” Sooze’schin-up attitude opens the possibility of a chance to take on theworld outside of suburbia for her.

The Theatre Arts Student Organization (TASO) asked Kochan todirect a spring play. In order to direct a show in the StudioTheatre, you have to complete two directing classes. Only aboutfour current PSU students have completed this Directing I and IIseries and, as one of them, Kochan was a logical choice ofdirector. He said, “Someone recommended this, there was a reallylarge interest in the script in the department .”

The convenience store employee, Norman, played by Jihad Qutub,is a believer in the American Dream. He states that when he getshis engineering degree in two years and he’s swimming in hisswimming pool, it’ll all be “very fucking OK.” This statement seemsdated now that the Silicon Valley’s once inflated stocks, whichwere thriving in 1994, have come back down to earth andconsequently many engineers have been laid off. But Kochan didupdate the slang; he told me that they changed “def” to”tight.”

Jayson Kochan and Brian Koch are putting on a rock concert inthe reception room before each play with music by the band DreamGirl. “The band [plays] really shallow, political folk rock. Theyopen up for Midnight Whore [in the play]. When he [Pony] meets upwith [the other characters] he had just gotten done playing aconcert in an arena in their town, so we’re going to try and treatit like that show.”

Overall, this is an engrossing play. The relationships betweenthe characters are familiar and believable. The actors’interactions are convincing throughout a range of moods: awkwardlysilent, brazenly flirtatious or borderline violent. And how can youpass up seeing Dream Girl in such an intimate venue when they’rehot off their U.K. tour?


Studio Theater
Lincoln Hall, Rm. 115
1620 S.W. Park Ave.
Fri., Sat. and Sun. April 23 through May 2
7:30 p.m. (w/ Dream Girl at 7 p.m.)