At Pacific Theatre until March 5, 2016
Posted February 20, 2016
How many parents tell their kids, “You can be anything you want”? Then comes the reality check for a lot of them after post-secondary education: McDonalds, Yellow Cabs, waiting tables if you’re lucky, unemployment if you’re not. And debt. The “you-can-be-anything-you-want” speech should come with caveats: It will take time. You will have to start at the bottom. It’s a highly competitive world out there; it’s going to take hard work.
In Bright Blue Future, Sean Harris Oliver’s first play, young Josh (Curtis Tweedie) envisions his future in “Bright, bright neon lights”. He wants to “be someone.” Josh is studying economics with a minor in philosophy at U. Vic so there’s definitely potential there. But Josh is uncertain about his sexuality and when he bumps into Arianna (Genevieve Fleming), Alexandra (Rachel Cairns) and Carston (Dmitry Chepovetsky) at a club, everything goes sideways.
It has already taken a turn for the worse for Arianna who has spent the tuition money her parents sent her on drugs; she’s dropped out of school and has been supporting the drug habit of her gay partner Alexandra, recently sprung from jail on drug and other charges. Alex has been clean for a short while until Carston, an old friend of Arianna’s, turns up and they all go out to a club where they meet Josh. They bring him home, get wasted and that bright blue future goes down the drain like so much bright blue toilet bowl cleanser.
Bright Blue Future is not for the faint of heart. The language is rough. The lifestyle is rougher. The opening scene some might find funny with Carston and Arianna, totally high, cavorting around her living room before Alex and Josh arrive loaded with goodies, including a bottle of scotch and a bottle of vodka. Party on!
Personally, I find scenes like this about as funny as some might find feeding a dog dope and watching it fall over. But it doesn’t take long for the penny to drop: Bright Blue Future is not funny.
The point of all this is that while all young people have a difficult time finding their way, for those marginalized by their sexual preferences, it’s tougher. Some lose the parental support so critical to getting them through hard times. Some suffer crushing insecurity and lack of self-confidence just when they need it the most. And some are preyed upon by unscrupulous predators who sense their vulnerability and exploit it. Coping skills include alcohol and a huge variety of drugs including, in this show, Molly/Ecstasy, GHB/Rhohypnol and cocaine that completely covers a coffee table.
Shawn Macdonald directs this world premiere (a guest production on the Pacific Theatre stage) on Jenn Stewart’s New Age-y set, framed on either side by two illuminated glass enclosures. Lighting designer Jill White uses to good effect some black light and isolates each of the characters, on occasion, in bright, overhead light. In one scene, she illuminates Cairns, squatting on a glass-top coffee table, from below. It’s a spooky, effective piece of lighting. Matthew MacDonald-Bain, sound designer, pumps out highly percussive electronic dance music.
Director Macdonald gets fine ensemble work from this cast but especially strong are Cairns, who always appears so ‘un-actorly’, and young Tweedie, who brings crushing innocence and naiveté to the role. When Carston asks Josh, for example, “You’ve never been with a man?”, Josh guilelessly but with the slightest hint of apprehension replies, “In what sense?”
This is tough stuff but it brings home to parents the need to find that delicate balance between encouragement and unreasonable expectation that drives young people to abuse drugs and alcohol. And it shows how easily a bright blue future can slip away. A Hardline Productions presentation, Bright Blue Future is a never preachy, cautionary tale and an excellent first play by Sean Harris Oliver.