BareStage's "Somewhere Good" Illuminates Problems for Millennials
Watching BareStage’s production of Somewhere Good was like watching an exceptionally well done episode of Friends with its main plot points rooted in critical and societal issues, rather than who can eat the most of Rachel’s awful trifle without puking. Undeniably realistic, relatable, and poignant, Mary Zhou’s play felt more like deja vu of my own conversations than actors on a stage reciting lines.
Somewhere Good, a brand new play written by Cal’s own Mary Zhou, prides itself on being a play for millennials by a millennial. The story unravels between three friends after college as they try to find jobs, love, and acceptance from their peers. Two romantic interests keep the play lighthearted and reveals how sometimes we place love in the wrong people. Rooted more in social thematics, rather than a scene-by-scene plot, Zhou’s play touches on some of the most critical social problems we face today, such as sexual orientation, race and privilege, social media, body image, and the evolving idea of what it means to validate love in a generation that hesitates to do so.
Directed by Lana Cosic, the cast superbly encompasses these themes in wonderfully nuanced, flawed, and believable characters. With only five main characters and one minor supporting role, the cast relies heavily on themselves and each other to succeed--and nobody falls short.
Notably, Kacey Mayeda, expertly navigates the challenging role of Annie. Relatable and deeply complex, Annie personifies the modern obsession with receiving validation. As a girl in love with her gay best friend, Annie lusts after someone she knows she will never have. But what stands out about Mayeda’s performance is Annie’s small mannerisms that make her distinctly human--trying on ten different outfits before settling on one or stalking other girls on Instagram with her roommate. Mayeda portrays Annie with a seriousness, yet also indulges in subtle and appreciated humor. Soft, emotional, and flawed, Mayeda is not afraid to explore her character, allowing her to make mistakes that connect to the audience on a deeper level.
Ryan Advincula, who plays Eli, is one of the more lighthearted and charming characters in the show. Uncomfortably awkward, quiet, and adorable, Advincula adds comedic effect through the empathy you can’t help but feel for him. Like a puppy, you can’t help but watch and giggle along with Advincula. His jokes are poorly timed, which makes them even better and how could you not enjoy someone who wants to do a couples Halloween costume with utensils? Like every great movie of our generation, he navigates the shy-boy-that-you-secretly-root-for role perfectly.
One of the more complex characters, Steve (Zane Martin) tackles more critical social issues as he faces the decision to reveal to his mother that he is gay. With a similar attitude of Advincula, Martin evokes laughs, cringes, and sympathy from the audience. Martin is an excellent actor who is graced with a character with a genuine heart and a load of insecurities. Battling privilege and sexuality, Steve faces constant upward battles, and Martin gracefully leads his character through it all
Paul, played by freshman Paul Yorkgitis, won the award for most eye rolls in a performance. In a good way. Yorkgitis makes the audience laugh with his frat boy demeanor, his coiffed hair, and always perfectly-pressed get ups. But what made people laugh wasn’t how quintessentially tech startup he is, it was how much he loved himself that made the audience both cringe in disgust and shudder at how true this has become. Every action he takes benefits himself. Paul epitomizes this generation’s obsession with themselves, and Yorkgitis perfectly executes this persona.
Lastly, Stephanie Cervantez shines as Annie’s best friend and roommate, Lisa. Absolutely hilarious, real, raw, and sex-positive, Cervantez illuminates Lisa’s dynamicity as she is challenged to portray a confident girl on the outside, while revealing her damaging self-doubt and self-consciousness. This obsession with body image stems from Lisa’s obsession with social media. However, one subtle, yet powerful exchange between a clothing store sales associate and Lisa reminds the audience that everybody struggles with their body. Zhou’s superb writing intermingles with Cervantez’s stellar acting to produce a character so emotional and real, I thought I was watching my best friend perform. WIth an emotional grace that makes the audience reflect on their own experience and hilarious zingers, Cervantez truly captures the essence of the millennial experience in a multiplicity of ways.
Cosic’s expert directing, Zhou’s eloquent words, and the cast’s relatableness culminate to create a play that stands as a testament to the struggles of the modern world. With constant access to social media, body image issues, self-doubt, and the need for acceptance and validation supplant self-love. Which leaves the audience with one of Zhou’s many themes: that our generation seeks love from others, whether digitally or tangibly. But the best part of Zhou’s play is the ending. Left unintentionally vague, every audience member can create their own interpretation based on what message spoke to them the most. And it’s in this openness, with every character’s flaws laid out, with every theme and message that we are invited to find our somewhere good.
Images: Riley Bathauer Media
Catch BareStage’s production of “Somewhere Good” at the Cesar E. Chavez Center on October 21st and 22nd at 8:00pm.