by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

Jealousy, rage, cynicism, peer pressure, violence…is it hard to believe, that these are the words that describe teenage existence today? Mmmmm, maybe not.  These nouns have always been in place. It’s the behaviors that  have escalated. How is it then, that no one can explain – why?

What starts off as a normal high school geek-versus-jock parade goes quickly in the worst direction when Garrett a self-proclaimed nerd finds himself the ‘like’ interest of Nicole, a popular high school cheerleader and ex-girlfriend of a rather unrestrained football player.  Resentments and grudges immediately spring up on both sides of the lunch room table, leading to spite and lies, bringing about more than just hurt feelings, edged into defensive actions, which finally erupt into full-on vengeance. The consequences are ultimately irreversible.

Friends Like TheseDeceptively a simple story about mere teenage hyper-drama, Friends Like These is significant in presenting the major subject here: school shootings.

With the amp -up of violent incidences since Columbine, including the recent Santa Barbara tragedy, one has to consider that it isn’t just all them.  Kids aren’t kids and something about themselves, their environments and their relationships is more than just bothering them.  But what’s driving the hysterical super-charge apart from hormones is the question that needs to be continually and most actively asked.

Friends Like These presents a simplistic view; who gets blamed for someone else being shamed; misperceptions and labels; possessive behaviors confused with love, like and friendship; past histories, which for four high school students, trying mostly very hard to make sense of their own lives day by day, has a Molotov cocktail ending.  Worse…although we the audience see it coming right from the beginning, in so many real-life cases, nobody actually does.

It is momentarily hard to sit through the high pitched cat fight screaming, sometimes humorous watching versions of our younger selves re-live (thankfully for most of us), long past disagreements and small bumps in the road to adulthood.  In some areas it feels light.  But the level of emotional intelligence, language  and teen experientiality of the material is pretty spot on, thus, important enough to sit through and relevant as all hell.  Nice performances especially worth noting by lead actor Scott Sharma as Garrett and Sean Casey Flanagan as Bryan.

Probably one of playwright Greg Crafts best written pieces to date, Friends Like These,  is a definite “worth the ticket” for Fringe 2014.

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