Awkward 'Aliens'

With almost as much silence as speech, playwright Annie Baker seems to be daring theatergoers to snooze during ''The Aliens''

Baker does, it must be said, a remarkable job of capturing how young people today talk and engage – or, more often, disengage from – each other. ”Like,” ”hmm” and ”whatever” pepper her dialogue throughout – such that all three are surely uttered as much as ”ladder” by show’s end. The characters also regularly respond by saying ”cool” or ”awesome,” even when it’s clear they mean nothing of the sort. They’re all just verbal tics used to fill dead air or disingenuously imply that there’s an actual two-way conversation, or true connection, taking place.

Baker’s characters are, as intended, woefully flawed. The charismatic Jasper, convincingly played by O’Connor, is clearly pained from his girlfriend dumping him for a more ambitious man. But KJ is too distant and unfeeling – and also too high from ‘shroom-spiked tea – to offer any kind of solace or reason. He can’t even be bothered to care for himself, let alone his closest friend. Meanwhile, the show’s third character Evan (Brian Miskell) seemingly aborts his own attempt at a relationship with a girl he met at teenage music camp. He also refers to Jasper, whom he barely knows and has spent only limited time with, as his best friend.

The Aliens
star-1/2
To Dec. 23
Studio Theatre
$35 to $72
202-332-3300
studiotheatre.org

It all adds up to a whole lot of un-communicated or miscommunicated feelings, ending in a tragedy that breaks apart the threesome’s tenuous bond. At play’s end, KJ tells a guitar-playing Evan, ”You’re gonna go far.” He does have the potential, but sadly you doubt anything of consequence will happen – since little of consequence happened onstage. The Aliens offers no real resolution to what transpired, and no ”big picture” lessons learned. In fact, the characters don’t even seem aware of their own shortcomings.

They’re all merely dreaming of an escape.

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