Review by Miranda Michalowski
How do taxes work?
Do people think I’m a terrible person?
What the hell is edamame?
‘Two Twenty Somethings Decide Never To Be Stressed About Anything Ever Again. Ever’ presented by Bite Productions dives deep into these questions, questions that plague the mind of a modern-day twenty-something. In a culture that seems defined by the constant pursuit of wellness and happiness, Michael Costi’s satirical play asks the question, what if being stressed is a choice? What if we could choose to never be stressed, ever again?
The two twenty-somethings referenced in Costi’s title are brought to life by Jasmin Simmons as the Girlfriend and Kieran McGrath as the Boyfriend, with Elliott Mitchell rounding out the cast as their New Best Friend. Both Simmons and McGrath hold their own and have strong comic timing as the leads, while Eve Beck’s direction shapes a biting social commentary.
The design in the KXT black box theatre is atmospheric without being all-consuming. Set designer Grace Deacon brings to life a twenty-something living room and kitchen that resemble an Ikea display home, referencing the play's exploration of aesthetics. Alexander Lee-Rekers sound design supports transitions as well as creating moments of emotional intensity, while the lighting design by Benjamin Brockman shines in the colourful transition sequences towards the play’s beginning.
The unconventional aspirations of the two-twenty somethings create comedic theatrical moments. The Boyfriend’s ideal, stress-free job involves working as a “grassroots, man of the people” in a chicken shop. However, his fear of germs spreading means the job quickly becomes more stressful than anticipated, and his germaphobia feels all too justified in our present context. Meanwhile, his Girlfriend aspires to become an ASMR live streamer, completing her act with popping candy, stationery and dramatic whispering. The inclusion of ASMR works brilliantly on the stage and the comedy is only heightened when the Boyfriend enters the live stream, needing to share some important news with his Girlfriend.
The character of the kombucha-drinking, baby djembe-carrying ‘New Best Friend’ is an amusing caricature, however, does not contribute much to the overall journey of the play and feels two-dimensional. However, the simplicity of this character also comments on the twenty-somethings simplistic view of happiness, as they believe the key ingredient to their happiness is a "chill best friend" who will join them for board game nights. For the twenty-somethings, life is more about appearing happy on Instagram than about actually being happy.
Michael Costi’s writing is witty and relevant to a current Australian audience. The script is laced with references to our contemporary culture, like kombucha, Swedish crime dramas, Instagram aesthetics, Ottolenghi recipes, succulents and Balderdash. Costi’s writing soars in the moments when the fast-paced, overlapping dialogue takes on a poetic quality.
‘Two Twenty Somethings’ builds to an ending that leaves the audience on a punchline, which makes it feel somewhat lacklustre. Despite this, the commentary underlying the play is clear. Costi draws out the younger generation’s self-indulgence, obsession with image and desire to feel happy, like all the time. He suggests that our relentless pursuit of happiness and wellness is not only unrealistic but might just be selfish too. That in a world where we have all the information at our fingertips, there might be a few things that are worth getting stressed about.
Image Credit: Clare Hawley