comes as a bit of a surprise to see that this amiable little American
comedy was written by a woman, since it plays exactly like the middle
chapters of a male writer's first novel.
Annie Baker is
to be commended for that technical achievement as well as for creating
some curiously attractive characters in a story that is so frail as to
be virtually nonexistent and that still lingers warmly in your memory.
nerdy high school
kid working for the summer in a small town coffee shop discovers a
couple of thirty-something stoners who spend all day hanging out in the
alley. Both are school dropouts, one still lives with his mother, one
imagines himself a novelist while the other writes incomprehensible
song lyrics, but mainly they sit around, smoke, reminisce about the
band they once almost formed (variously called The Aliens, Electric
Hookah and Jamball And The Jolly Kangaroo, among others) and vaguely
course, but harmless ones, and when they adopt the kid as a kind of
mascot, they give him a warmth and sense of playing-with-the-big-kids
that's just what he needs. They get him reading Bukowski, offer sex
advice, don't tease him any more than is absolutely necessary, and
generally offer a casual friendship. And that's almost all there is.
the course of
the play someone will die, someone will get laid and someone will move
on. There is no way one could call these guys major influences in the
kid's life, but you can understand why they'd stay in his memory and
become part of his first novel.
it is the
woman writer's perspective that allows that small, almost non-story
story to be as satisfying as it is, the recognition that little things
that don't change lives still matter just for their own sake.
Peter Gill directs with exactly the right light hand, refusing to allow anything to seem any bigger or smaller than it is, and Olly Alexander (kid), Mackenzie Crook (novelist) and Ralf Little (songwriter) all give very generous performances by submerging themselves in the characters and letting the play's quiet mode carry them along.
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- The Aliens - Bush 2010