Review: ‘The Beautiful People’ is a discomfiting look at the roots of male violence

Robert Hundley

“The Wonderful People today,” a new engage in by Tim Venable created by Rogue Device at the Matrix Theatre, takes location in the basement wherever two substantial school boys are acquiring a sleepover on the eve of a university capturing that for good improved the program of American lifetime.

It’s the late 1990s. Goth is great. Computer systems are boxy. MTV is participating in in the history. Video game titles are the non-jock variation of sports activities. And Marilyn Manson haunts the headphones of offended, disaffected youth.

The teenage figures, performed by Alex Neher and Justin Preston, are discovered in the plan only as 1 and 2. The location furthermore is meant to be a suburban any where. The plot eschews foreshadowing. It is not until eventually the conclusion of the engage in that the boys’ horrific designs are unveiled.

Venable’s concentrate is on masculinity. “The Stunning People today,” which is also the title of a Manson song, traps us in this basement with the aggression, antagonism, vulnerability and sexual frustration of these youthful adult males.

It’s an unpleasant spot for an viewers to cling out. A handful of theatergoers are scattered all over the periphery of the set, but no 1 can escape the scent of combustible teen angst.

The production, scrupulously directed by Guillermo Cienfuegos, forces us to return to this period of time of our life when tedium and fury had been interchangeable and every single social mishap was a melodrama of epic proportions. The psychological claustrophobia is captured in David Mauer’s output design, which lays out this adolescent bunker with moment notice to element.

Neher’s character is taller and additional daunting. He physically threatens Preston’s character, using swings at him anytime he feels like it, even hitting him under the belt following shedding a fiercely competitive video game of Nerf basketball.

Preston’s character, smarter, wealthier and a very good offer far more delicate, is introverted to the stage of getting self-negating. He confesses that he’s under no circumstances kissed a woman ahead of. Neher’s character boasts that he’s performed more than kiss, but he’s insecure about his gawky overall body and it is very clear that he has not experienced considerably good results with the reverse sexual intercourse both.

Fantasies of domination and humiliation bond these two outsiders. They want to transform the tables on the boys who make them experience weak and the ladies who make them truly feel worthless.

Movies are another source of camaraderie. “Natural Born Killers” is a touchstone for the people, but the film that was on my head was “Badlands,” Terrence Malick’s 1973 naturalistic common starring Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen as a pair of young serial killers on the run.

“The Attractive People” does not have the similar laconic breeziness, but it is in no hurry to reach a climax. Adolescent actions is positioned less than the spotlight for collective scrutiny. If the push products hadn’t made crystal clear that this was a engage in about school shooters, I could possibly have believed we ended up in a verité drama about misplaced younger adult males clinging to every single other for survival.

The characters in the script have names, Eric and Dylan. These are the identical initially names as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of the Columbine Substantial University massacre.

Rogue Equipment does not spell out the link on its web page, although it hints that the characters’ seemingly harmless sleepover has a darker reason. This nefarious scheme, on the other hand, belongs to one more drama. Only when morning comes and it’s time for university is the program discussed. The participate in is in essence in excess of at this level. Nighttime, when the drama usually takes area, is not used in examining logistics but in acting out as troubled boys.

It’s as if Venable began to write a play about the Columbine killers and then made a decision to erase his tracks, not wanting to be bogged down in historic particulars of a phenomenon that has come to be dangerously widespread in American modern society. The aim is potentially to provide a much more probing analysis of the shooters’ injured male identities, but the playwriting system is only partially powerful.

It’s not credible to me that Eric (Neher) and Dylan (Preston) wouldn’t mention what they were being plotting when alone alongside one another on the eve of the big day. It’s as if we’re catching a glimpse of previously variations of these figures in advance of they gave them selves about to their murderous system and ended up continue to most likely redeemable.

Venable is meticulous in his realism, which shines a promptly transferring flashlight into the inner struggles of his people. Eric, for occasion, requires good pleasure in his father’s military background, the way he was a “killing machine” in the Vietnam War. But when he hears his father transferring close to upstairs, the mere audio of his presence sets off a worry assault.

Dylan, desperate for approval even if it arrives at the price tag of being Eric’s punching bag, glows when Eric praises the story he’s prepared about a vengeful killing spree. Still his destructive impulse is inwardly directed. It is Eric’s outward aggression that ushers Dylan absent from the at any time-existing entice of suicide.

But what does all this psychology convey to us? I held considering as I viewed “The Gorgeous People” that alienated teenagers who entertain fantasies of revenge aren’t constrained to the U.S. Nor is bullying or toxic masculinity or violent video games.

When it will come to mass carnage, what separates The us from other equivalent nations is obtain to firearms. The stockpile of armaments pulled out at the end of “The Wonderful People” tells a more pertinent story about school shootings.

Just after a week in which the Supreme Courtroom made the decision that individuals have a constitutional correct to have a firearm in public but do not have a constitutional appropriate to terminate an unwelcome being pregnant, and soon after the unspeakable horror at Robb Elementary Faculty in Texas’ Uvalde County previous month, I was hoping for a far more incisive political assessment of our recurring mass shooting nightmare. But this properly-observed, well-acted production presents a discomfiting glance at the roots of male violence in The usa.

‘The Beautiful People’

Where: Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, Mondays, 3 p.m. Sundays. No effectiveness on July 4. Ends July 31.

Tickets: $45 normal admission

Make contact with: (855) 585-5185 or www.roguemachinetheatre.internet

Managing time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

COVID protocol: Audiences are expected to clearly show proof of vaccination, have their temperature taken on entrance and use masks at all periods right until even more recognize.

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