Five young people sit around a rundown house, smoking, toking, slamming shots and drinking beer. They gossip, laugh, dance, make out, sleep off hangovers and occasionally fight. Only one of these people is getting out in Lucy Thurber's "Where We're Born." The rest are stuck for life.
20% Theatre Company's production is a bleak and caustic coming-of-age story. Lily, a girl who never fit in in her small, working-class Massachusetts town, is home from college for a visit. Hanging out with her cousin Tony, his girlfriend Franky and a couple of buddies, she seems at first to fall effortlessly back into the rhythms of life in this dead-end town. However, fissures appear as her new perspectives clash with her past and she's forced to question everything from her relationships with her family to her sexuality to her place in the world.
Designer Ursula K. Bowden perfectly captures the play's ambiance with a set that encompasses both the interior and exterior of a shabby house that's seen its share of late-night parties. Director Leah Cooper uses the space adeptly, often allowing two scenes to occur simultaneously as some characters talk on the porch while the others carry on inside in silence. When someone opens the front door, mingled sounds of music and laughter drift onto the porch, creating the dizzying sensation of transparent walls.
Cooper's strong ensemble gives Thurber's dialogue life. Lindsay Marcy ably captures Lily's complexities, whether she's immersing herself in the crude humor of Tony and his friends, dizzy with the exhilaration of her love for Franky or distracted by her focus on the details of a college textbook. It's a performance tempered by an awkward tentativeness underscoring this character's youth and vulnerability.
Becka Linder's Franky is a masterful portrayal of the high school beauty facing a lifetime of diminishing returns, while Anthony Neuman creates a Tony that's a complicated blend of paternalism, insecurity and burgeoning violence. John T. Zeiler is spot-on as Vin, Tony's obnoxious buddy, whose diatribe on patriotism reveals the insecurity that seethes beneath the surface for all the characters. He's nicely complemented by Seth Conover as his aimless sidekick, Drew.
At one point in "Where We're Born", Vin tells Drew that "If you leave something alone, it goes away." It's a line meant for a laugh but it also encompasses the world of these characters and the layers of secrets that ultimately shape their choices, or lack thereof. It's a world that's given its due in this thoughtful, well-staged production.