A painted screen depicts the bucolic campus of Jubilee College, a small liberal-arts school. Above the screen stands Jubilee’s motto, “Puberes ex pueris”: From boys, young men. As a lush hymn to the alma mater gives way to rock ‘n’ roll thumps, the screen rises to reveal an ultra-modern dorm room and two of the young men in question. Wracked with the ennui of a Friday night devoid of attractions, Henry (Ian Brennan) pedals furiously on a stationary bike while Brodie (Luke MacFarlane) drawls weak witticisms from the bed. But as soon as Brodie’s girlfriend, Meredith (Aubrey Dollar), charges through the door, a plan for the evening emerges. The two men will attempt to seduce Angie (Erica N. Tazel)—the African American, gospel-singing, Bible-studying hottie across the hall—into a threesome.
Like its adolescent characters, Wendy MacLeod’s comedy, Juvenilia, wants to pretend it’s edgier than it is. Just as Henry, Brodie, and Meredith’s mockery and posturing reveal deep-set uncertainties and fears, MacLeod’s bluntness and raunchiness enswirl a terribly moral core in which the values of love, friendship, honesty, and compassion prevail. The play reads like a dramatized Milky Way Dark: bitter chocolate outside, cloyingly sweet center. For all the talk of blowjobs, porn stars, and fetishes, MacLeod’s post-teens just want to be held.
Admittedly, this paradox is epidemic among college students, but where MacLeod and director David Petrarca might have left these contradictions unspoken, they shout them. Speaking to Angie, Henry declares, “Sometimes I get so tired of irony. You know that voice. That gently mocking, been there, done that voice.” Indeed, much of Henry’s ironizing is tiresome, primarily because Petrarca seems to have directed his actors to play the pain below rather than the flippancy above, so not even the sarcasm sounds authentic.
Authenticity isn’t absent, however. Martin Pakledinaz nails the costumes, and the sound design features the age-appropriate White Stripes. MacLeod also has a fine ear for hipsterisms and a deft hand at one-liners. When Brodie recounts a fight with Meredith stemming from his praise of Britney Spears’s breasts, Henry exclaims, “They’re totally fake!” Brodie, like a slacker Oscar Wilde, counters, “So is Polarfleece, but it’s warm and soft.” On the other hand, there’s a troubling ingenuousness to the character of Angie. She’s given lines such as “What matters is that Jesus is God” and “At least you’re honest, that’s a start.” MacLeod makes the nonwhite character the bearer of truth and integrity, and while that’s trendy, it’s hardly cool.