Meet Darrell. He is an American teenager desiccating in the vacuum of middle-class suburbia. Aside from growing paranoid that best friend Tim and girlfriend Jenn might be betraying him, or allowing his step-sister to seduce him, he does little except loiter in parking lots and hang at the zoo. He prefers wearing jeans and metal-band T-shirts. As directed by Jeffrey Cass in its Midwest premiere at Circle Theatre, playwright Neil Labute’s “The Distance from Here” looks like an American Apparel ad come to life, a visually prurient production with lanky boys in their tighty-whities and girls in nightshirts and short skirts looking as physically impoverished as they are morally so. Along with the set’s towering, drab-colored concrete slabs that feel as oppressive as the Berlin Wall, not to mention earnest performances that articulate the clipped rhythms of LaBute’s dialogue with animalistic urgency, this production certainly conveys the bleakness of the blank generation. The problem is that this is familiar territory, and compared to earlier treatments by such playwrights as Bogosian, Ravenhill or Pugliese, the play just doesn’t impart anything new on the subject. Even by LaBute’s standards, the play lacks the intellectually satisfying denouement of “The Shape of Things” or enough of the Euripidean emotional echoes of “Bash” to imbue the proceedings with any sense of real tragedy. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Circle Theatre, 7300 West Madison Street, Forest Park, (708)771-0700. Thu 8 pm 12/01, 12/08 & 12/15 only. Fri – Sat 8pm/Sun 3pm. $21-$23. Through Dec 18.