The Equity-waiver stages of Los Angeles have a preponderance of young actors, looking to improve their careers, alas often without a decent vehicle and sadly without the talent so rarely found in the burgeoning performer. Happily, House of Yes playwright Wendy MacLeod receives a smartly produced West Coast premiere of Juvenilia, courtesy of newly formed Faultline Theatre Company.
Set in the men's dorm of an Ohio liberal arts college, MacLeod's take on insecure, sexually rapacious, and neurotic but bright students begins in the room of Henry (Ryan Churchill), self-described as the "slightly doughy philosophy guy." Opposites apparently do attract, as his best friend, Brodie (Scott Butler), devilish and handsome, is more interested in buying papers than in attaining knowledge. His girlfriend Meredith (Vanessa Long) is a sexual dynamo and lacerating in her criticism of virtually everything. "I stand politically corrected," is the most she will concede, and so it is no great surprise that she challenges Brodie and Henry to have a sexual threesome with black Christian fellow student Angie (Chris Brown). Angie is more physically attracted to the arrogantly self-assured Brody, but it is perennial loser Henry who nearly wins her with his utterly self-effacing honesty, despite letting slip the question, "Do you think black girls think white guys have small penises?"
MacLeod's wit is exceptional, and although director Leslie Morgan lets Butler get a bit histrionic in Act One, it all comes together most powerfully in the second act. The rawness of youthful indiscretions and soul-searching come to a head, and this ultimately cohesive cast—led by the wonderfully spiteful and then fragile Long, and the nerdishly appealing Churchill—makes this course one that should be mandatory for those in the theatrical field.
"Juvenilia," presented by Faultline Theatre Company at Gardner Stages, 1501 N. Gardner St., L.A. Fri.-Sun. 8 p.m. Aug. 20-Sept. 12. $15. (323) 461-0689.