Angst The New Teen Musical is a play about teens, featuring teens, and even written by teens, who studied at the Young Artists Council of Youth Performance Company. The heavy teen influence easily appeals to a young, Internet-savvy audience. But those unfamiliar with the art of creating a profile and choosing your "top 8 friends" will have trouble understanding some of the story's central conflicts. A colorful musical number introduces us to the eight major characters: slut, popular girl, token black male, Jesus freak, stoner, closet gay man, intense overachiever, and political activist. Because they are all in the same creative writing class, geeky loner Tom (Eric Mayson) decides to add his new classmates to his top 8.
The story's strengths lie in the bubbly score, written by performer Eric Mayson. Mayson, a recent graduate from a performing arts high school, shows true veteran poise for not losing the gravity of a somber monologue when the stage lights accidentally faded to black in the middle of his speech. He displayed even greater mettle in the following scene when his character's climactic turning point was punctured by the opening notes of a party song. The obvious technical error could have destroyed the scene, but Mayson barely flinched and kept the moment together.
Where the play does need to be more careful is in the execution of its racially centered jokes. They walk a fine line between pushing the envelope and coming uncomfortably close to sensitive stereotypes. For example, a black student looking to connect with his race tries out tap dancing—a reference to minstrel shows? Later, when he tries to slip out of the class to avoid admitting he has not done his work, his teacher calls out, "Hey you, runaway slave," to summon him back. These are the kind of jokes that leave you unsure about whether to laugh or cringe.
But overall, the production is well suited for young audiences, who will enjoy seeing their language and culture reflected onstage. Creative writing teacher Mr. King (Theo Langason) talks to his students in "chat speak," a kind of Internet substitute language that breaks entire sentences down into three or four letters. "Did you think I forgot about you?" he asks the class loner. "ROFL!"
If you knew instantly that this meant rolling on the floor laughing, this play is for you.