Angst '84 | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Angst '84, TinFish Theatre. At the center of Toni K. Thayer's brand-new play lies a seriously half-baked conceit: high school is like a police state in that, um, well...there are these rules, and this self-styled "principal" character, and...people are, like, mean. Throw in a fashionable dash of 80s nostalgia, justified solely by the pun on Orwell's title, and you've pretty much got the measure of Thayer's piece. Occasionally she invokes notions of enforced conformity and conditioned blindness, but the analogy between teenage-wasteland bleak and geopolitical-nightmare tragic is so skewed you'd think only an adolescent could have come up with it.

The overblown allegory is similarly ill suited to the static, mundane plot, which hinges on issues hardly Orwellian in tenor or scope. Goth-rock participant-observer Shannon--a deadpan depressive handily played by Anne Sunseri somewhere between Ringwald and Ryder--guides a daylong tour of Lakeville Heights HS that shoots for John Hughes but plays more like an episode of DeGrassi Junior High. She's knocked up; he ducks responsibility. He's bravely gay; his crush is in the closet. She cheats on her sham boyfriend; disaster ensues. Problems are introduced, then left hanging, as though another installment were to follow. Hence no overarching conflict, no dramatic arc, no possible resolution.

Rebecca Britner and Alix Daily's deadly accurate costume design, Rachel Klein's deft direction, a talented cast, and a vintage sound track conspire to make this pleasant enough. But the ideas remain perplexingly underdeveloped.

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