In March of 1982 the United States youth finds itself lost in its own culture. On, what should be, the tail end of a decadal transition from the 1970s to 80s, the ever-changing and tumultuous world seems only to be spiraling further out of control. Ronald Reagan is President of the United States and unemployment is at the highest its been since the Great Depression; and, a new “cancer” that we would only later name “The AIDS Crisis” was just starting to infect the city of New York. While peace, love, drugs, and rock & roll were all in good fun in the 1970s, the hippies have grown up and moved on into adulthood, leaving behind a counter culture of cocaine, punk rock, and a deep dissatisfaction with the state of the world.
While all of these things are spinning around these characters lives, perhaps the most striking nuance of This Is Our Youth, is the lack of mention of any cultural events by the characters themselves. We are given, indisputably by the playwright, that this play lives on a Saturday night in March of 1982 on the Upper West Side of New York. However, besides this initial stage direction and the occasional reference to Ronald Reagan, there is absolutely no indication of the necessity of this play living in March 1982, compared to say perhaps June 1983 or February 1985.
We can only assume this is a conscious choice, given to us by the playwright, as an indication of character. While the world spins madly on around these three characters, we find them narcissistically oblivious to the major events happening around them. We find them trapped in the phase of our youth, where nothing seems to matter unless it effects us directly.
This Is Our Youth is not a story of great change. It is a story of incremental ones. It is a story of negative momentum turning into positive momentum, and how difficult that transition can be. Through the course of twenty four hours we see these characters eyes open to a greater world around them and, for the very first time, feel that all of their actions have a direct affect on the people around them. If anything, This Is Our Youth is a story of potential energy, which is ultimately, a story of hope.