There’s not a lot happening in American Annie Baker’s sparse new play – and she even goes so far as to specify that at least a third of it is silence. But thanks to the carefully tuned acting, and Peter Gill’s sympathetically detailed direction, there’s much to savour – and unexpected gentle comedy – in this tiny slice of New England life.
In the off-limits, fenced-in staff area behind a Vermont coffee shop, scruffy thirtysomethings Jasper and KJ lounge around aimlessly smoking, drinking magic mushroom tea and getting high. They look and sound like two of life’s damaged losers, purposeless and unfocussed. Jasper’s girlfriend has left him for another man. College dropout KJ, on medication following a breakdown, has gone back to live with his New Age mum.
They once had a band – sort of – which went by various names including The Aliens. Drawn to their company is 17 year old summer temp Evan who is fascinated by the two older men and joins their low-key Fourth of July celebrations.
Olly Alexander captures, winningly, the teenager’s constant state of embarrassment as he tries to please his new “friends”. Ralf Little (with a tangled rope of unwashed hair and given to gnomic utterings) is equally convincing as laidback KJ, whilst Mackenzie Crook is perfectly cast as troubled, self-confessed “trailer trash” Jasper with his volume of Charles Bukoswki poems and aspirations to write his own novel.
None of them really belongs – but one’s left with the hope that maybe, just perhaps, young Evan might still find his way when summer comes to an end and school and his Jewish family background reassert their conventional influence.
Bush Theatre, Shepherds Bush Green, W12 8QD
020 8743 5050
Tube: Shepherds Bush
Until 16th October
£20, Saturday matinees £15
Review: Louise Kingsley