Korn t-shirts, detention, chain-link fences, slouching, and a liberal sprinkling of f-bombs in daily conversation.
For many students, these words drum up images of high school friends or classmates, in the words of actor Chelsea Reeverts, “the stereotypical misfits we knew growing up.”
These misfits are the subject Neil LaBute’s “The Distance from Here,” the racy opening show for the University Center for the Arts.
The play opened Wednesday to a crowd of about 150 people. It will continue Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. at the University Center for the Arts with a matinee Sunday at 2 p.m.
Before opening night, the show had already generated scandal on a small scale involving its poster; some had been taken down or turned over at various locations around campus. The image on the front depicts a tattoo-ed, shirtless man behind a chain-link fence – that is flipping off the viewer.
“It was designed to prepare people for the show,” Walt Jones, the play’s director, said. “If they can’t take the poster, they can’t take the show.”
Jones said he had removed a poster in the UCA the weekend before the show as a family concert was going to be held there, and he didn’t want children to be exposed to the image. The poster was later replaced.
“I wanted audiences to know the play wasn’t for 5-year-olds, even 16-year-olds. It’s rough, there’s violence and partial nudity.” he said.
The show deals with the day-to-day lives of a trio of high school kids dealing with the dark side of mundane suburbia: broken homes, poverty, alcohol, jealousy and a bleak expanse of nothingness for the future.
“These people who are constantly marginalized by society are essentially dead to us,” Jones said. “Maybe they deserve to be looked at anthropologically.”
During the course of the play, Darrell, played by Matt Block, and his sidekick best friend Tim, played by Andrew Katers, stumble and slouch their way through detention and boring afternoons in grocery-store parking lots, trapped in a high school wasteland.
Darrell’s family life consists of little more than gathering around the TV for reruns and salmon loaf.
His step dad, constantly with a beer-in-hand, keeps him in his place with rough-housing.
This leads Darrell to bully and try to control his friends and girlfriend. His extreme jealousy toward his girlfriend, Jenn, played by Meghan Gray, ultimately leads to disaster in a tense, emotional scene when he loses touch with reality.
In order to develop their characters, the cast returned to their high school days to dig for memories.
Yearbooks and notes, and even the belongings of one ex-girlfriend served to bring back the past.
Cast members also jammed to ’90s grunge rock like Nirvana and Pearl Jam to get into the right mindset.
“It’s just fun for everyone to think back for a day,” said Gray.
Cast members agreed, stating that the characters were startlingly similar to some of their high school classmates.
“It’s like going on Facebook and checking out the real people,” said Erin Fried, who plays Shari, the teenage mother and step sister of Darrell.
“I don’t ever want to be these people and I thank God I’m not these people,” said Chelsea Reeverts, who plays Cammie, Darrell’s mom.
The relatable beginning and dramatic, disturbing end prompted startled reactions from the audience.
“I thought it was pretty twisted, but I enjoyed it,” said Corey Smith, a junior music major and audience member.
Lauren Ackey, a junior art major and audience member, offered similar views.
“It was a pretty compelling show, and pretty disturbing,” she said. “I did like the story; you couldn’t help but have compassion for the characters.”
Staff writer Rachel Survil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.