Matthew Reddin

Youngblood seeks success with the “urban failures” of [sic]

The character study centers on three dream-chasing 30-somethings unable to identify their own mistakes.

By - Sep 19th, 2012 10:18 am
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Actors (from left) Matt Koester, Benjamin James Wilson and Tess Cinpinski play the play’s three “urban failures.” Photo credit James Clark.

After three and a half seasons, Youngblood Theatre founding member Benjamin James Wilson seems comfortable calling the company a success. It’s a timely juxtaposition with their latest show [sic], about three “urban failures” trying to make their dreams a reality.

Written by Melissa James Gibson, [sic] takes place amid the studio apartments of those three characters: Babette (founding member Tess Cinpinski), Theo (Matt Koester) and Frank (Wilson). The three are friends, but just barely, united by proximity and “sharply focused ill-will” for their landlord.

“They’re like friends, but the friends you don’t want to hang out with a lot,” said director Jason Economus. “They don’t really know where else to go.”

The only other thing uniting them is their obsessions: dreams that could be something out of a feel-good movie if they hadn’t stalled partway.

For Babette, the dream is an in-progress manuscript. Cinpinski calls it a history of events that never happened and true events blown out of proportion. “She’s very devoted to something that doesn’t make sense,” Cinpinski said. “As long as it makes sense to her, that’s all that matters.”

Ambitious Theo is in the process of composing a symphony. The fact that his current patron is an amusement park doesn’t shake his self-importance. But Koester suggests that prideful stance is partially a front: “He’s going through a breakup, he’s going through an identity crisis … he just needs to be liked.”

Frank has the most out-of-the-box obsession: to move to Kansas City and become an auctioneer. “He’s trying to reinvent himself and become this different person,” Wilson said. “But he just can’t seem to do it.”

Director Jason Economus (L) describes the show’s characters as subconsciously “competing” for control of the narrative. Photo credit James Clark.

The trio’s plotlines intersect in intersections – halls and passageways between their three studio apartments, built on elevated platforms separated by three blocks of audience seating. There’s no perfect view in this staging – by design.

“We like the idea that there’s things you can’t see,” Cinpinski said, adding that [sic] also includes a number of unseen characters. The goal is verisimilitude: No one has a perfect view of what other people are doing in real life either.

The script is as fragmented as the set: unpunctuated, with line breaks fracturing sentences mid-thought into handfuls of words. It’s daunting to look at, but Koester pointed out the pacing is closer to actual speech, with arbitrary pauses for thought and rhythms not delineated by commas or periods.

That altered text is the most literal reference to the play’s title, an academic term indicating a mistake left unrepaired by the author. Wilson said the play’s characters embody the concept, keeping their errors at arm’s length and denying responsibility for them. “They’d much rather distance themselves from their mistakes,” Wilson said.

Koester sees that lack of responsibility as the stumbling block holding Babette, Theo and Frank back. “Once our characters would say ‘Okay, actually, I am at fault, it’s my problem … I need to admit that I’m a screwup,’ they could go ahead and figure out what they need to do to correct it.”

So is such a correction possible? Wilson’s wry response might say it all: “You could call this play a tragedy.”

[sic], also featuring James Boylan and Anna Figlesthaler, opens Thursday, Sept. 20 and runs through Oct. 5 at Bucketworks, 706 S. Fifth St. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or at the door.

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