The poignancy is palpable in “I’m Sorry I Liked You” written by Brian Hanson, who also plays the main guy.
In the late night production that opened last weekend at Beowulf Alley Theatre, Hanson is helped out by seven of his friends. Joshua Parra directed the whole thing, which looks and feels exactly like it is supposed to – people in their early 20s with no idea how to find and connect with any like-minded spirits out there.
For one thing, they aren’t even sure about the nature of their own spirits, so how can they hope to find any like-minded ones?
Hanson uses a series of conversational scenes set in casual places. There is no plot, per se, just this gradual deepening of frustration over always being misunderstood. Hanson’s self-named character Brian is the focus of this runaway storm. But all the characters have problems. Many have tried the escape route of recreational drugs.
So has Brian.
He is the stereotypical loser. A skinny kid in a loose-fitting black T-shirt and blue jeans who has spent so many years in public school sitting at the back of the class, drawing pictures in his notebook, that he’s become a pretty good cartoonist. In the opening scenes of the play, his sketch pad is always handy. It becomes an important means of communication for him.
Getting his ideas across has never been easy for Brian. Way too smart for his own good, completely lacking in social skills and having absolutely no interest in sports, Brian is still optimistic enough to believe life would be all right (or at least endurable) if he could just meet the right girl.
Or any girl, really. The more desperate he gets, the less particular he becomes.
At a time in our cultural history when self-image is being shaped mainly by the way people act on TV and in video games, guys like Brian are really out of luck. They don’t get any positive images, not even in all those slacker flicks.
Did you see “Adventureland,” the currently reigning movie for losers? The main loser becomes a winner at the end, of course, but the main loser’s buddy is sardonic Joel (Martin Starr), an even bigger loser. Joel majored in Slavic studies and defiantly smokes the kind of pipe we associate with old men. He also has a keen eye for the real world’s inequities. Bitter and cynical, he is the misfit who discovered in second grade that being smarter than all the other kids would never make him popular. At the end of “Adventureland,” Joel is still by himself, sucking on that pipe.
That is Brian, too, sucking in more emptiness with every breath, absorbed in the certainty that the only thing he is really good at is being a loser.
Brian’s friends in the play may not be quite that depressed, but neither are they living large. Ryan (Marcus Palm) is an energetic, lonely guy throwing himself into the gore of zombie movies. He thrives on them, running fast and never looking back.
Lana (Tristyn Tucci) is looking for love on the lesbian landscape, though she isn’t finding that much happiness. Stacy (Mindi Watts) has a chance to cross over into the social circles of successful people, but she can’t quite cut the cord on her friends from childhood who turned out to be less successful once they passed through the looking glass of adolescence.
What makes “I’m Sorry I Liked You” special is the dialogue. Hanson’s future is as a playwright. Although the language he gives these characters is filled with profanity, it also contains masterful psychology. Whether he is writing with a gift for intuition or the wisdom of masterful insight, Hanson nails it.
“I’m Sorry I Liked You” is more than a slacker’s memories set on stage. There is real life here, and for parents who want to look deeper, there are clues to what makes their children tick.
The other cast members are Ashley Kahaat, Antonio Ross, Evan Engle and Clinton Grozdanich.
IF YOU GO
What: Late Night Theatre at Beowulf Alley presents “I’m Sorry I Liked You” by Brian Hanson
When: 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Beowulf Alley Theatre, 11 S. Sixth Ave.
Info: 882-0555, www.beowulfalley.org