Struan Erlenborn, our Theatre editor, reviews New Youth, which started its début yesterday in the Barron Theatre, November 24th.
It was weird. It was ridiculous. I loved it.
Opening night of New Youth was packed. Showing up ten minutes before the doors opened meant you were scrambling to the ticket booth to pay for your seat. A busy entrance is nearly always a good sign. The buzz increased in the hallway as the audience got more and more excited for what was to come.
The first thing to notice as you walk in the theatre is the set: boxes lining the left and right sides of the stage in two levels. It is exceedingly versatile. It could be a town square, it could be bleachers, it could be mountains, it could be Parliament. Action was immediate. The show was not going to tiptoe into narrative, it was going to come out and throw books at you.
You could tell, as it was revealed in my preview for the show, that these were mostly new actors. The first scene was somewhat uncomfortable as they found their footing in front of their first audience. The words were muffled, and even in the front row it was, often times, hard to understand what was being said. However, every person on that stage had a tangible sense of purpose. Every actor, and particularly Clement Yeung and June Lee, had an overwhelming stage presence. Each person on the stage was serious and calculated, as if each knew they had a job to do and knew exactly what they needed to complete their task. Props to Alberto and Dominic. I am sure that was a product of expert directing.
The story itself was tremendous. The piece spans over several time periods, from the May 4th Movement of the early 1900s up until the present day and beyond. It was a cautionary tale, chronicling the way the progressive and traditional political spheres come into conflict throughout time, and suggesting that this conflict will continue until humanity has climbed to its peak.
The most remarkable achievements of this piece were a product of what I can only imagine is one of the most brilliant creative teams Mermaids has seen assembled. The costumes were phenomenal, the crowd favorite being Alberto’s horse head. The attention to detail was astounding. I loved the small, unappreciated props that established time period, things like an Apple Watch and a bag of chili Doritos in the modern era. The color arrangement of costumes, lighting, and the like was intelligent. The progressives were in black or blue, always staged on the audience’s left, and the traditionalists were in red on the right.
The props did not disappoint my wild expectations. I do not want to say any more, as I would rather my readers find out for themselves.
New Youth was meticulously planned. It showed in performance. I was mesmerized.