This Is Our Youth Summary
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First published in 1999, “This Is Our Youth” is a play by Kenneth Lonergan. Set in 1982, the play is a dark comedy that tells the story of three troubled young adults--Dennis, Warren, and Jessica. When Warren steals $15,000 from his father, Dennis spends some on drugs, and Warren uses it to take Jessica to an expensive hotel. The play deals with themes of materialism, maturity, and adolescence. Lonergan is an Academy Award nominated screenwriter and playwright who is best known for co-writing the script for the 2002 film Gangs of New York.
The two-act play is set in a single location--the Upper West Side apartment of a 22-year-old college dropout, Dennis Ziegler. The son of a famous painter and a social activist, Dennis comes from privilege. In fact, his parents pay for his rent, but he chooses to work as a small-time drug dealer. As Act One begins, Dennis is absent-mindedly watching TV when 19-year-old Warren Straub arrives. Dennis is rude to Warren, but Warren simply takes the abuse. The conversation reveals that Warren has been kicked out of his house, but not before he managed to steal $15,000 from his abusive father, who is "arguably the most dangerous lingerie manufacturer in the world."
Afraid of Warren's father and the armed men he will likely send after the missing money, Dennis demands that Warren get out, but Warren has nowhere else to go. Dennis says that Warren deserves the abuse he gets because he's always provoking people. They brainstorm a plan in which Warren can return the money to his father, but he has to wait two days for the opportunity. He asks Dennis if he can stay at his apartment until then, but Dennis says no. Warren reveals that Dennis previously stayed with him when he got kicked out, so eventually Dennis relents. However, Warren is restless and pesters Dennis to play catch with a football. Over the course of playing with the football, several items get broken in the apartment, including a sculpture made by Dennis's girlfriend, Valerie.
Warren asks several times about Jessica Goldman, and the young men discuss using the stolen money to get hookers. Dennis comes up with a plan to use $1,000 to buy some cocaine, which they'll sell for a profit and be able to return the whole $15,000 to Warren's father.
While Dennis tries to get cocaine from one of his dealer connections, Valerie calls. They arrange for her to come to the apartment with Jessica. Eventually Dennis makes an agreement with his connection, and Warren gives him money to go buy the cocaine and some champagne. Warren stays behind to let the girls in, but a few minutes later, Jessica arrives alone, saying that they met Dennis downstairs, so Valerie went with him.
While Warren and Jessica are alone in Dennis's apartment, conversation is awkward, and he continually interrupts her to interject his own opinions. He talks about maybe running away, and she discusses her interest in fashion, which segues into her philosophy that what you are now has no bearing on what you'll be like in the future. She finds this depressing because "it just basically invalidates whoever you are right now."
Eventually they turn to the suitcase Warren brought with him, which is full of his antique toys. She asks his favorite item, and he says it's his Wrigley Field Opening Day baseball cap that was given to him by his grandfather. He reminisces about his grandfather, and the discussion turns to his extended family, including his sister who was murdered. Things grow awkward again, so they begin dancing. This leads to kissing, and the pair decide to go rent a hotel room rather than wait for Dennis and Valerie.
Act Two begins with Warren returning alone to Dennis's apartment. Warren reveals that he and Jessica had sex, but that she freaked out afterwards, saying she doesn't really know him. Dennis first congratulates him, then scolds him when he finds out that Warren spent $2,700 impressing Jessica. He says that they can't sell that much cocaine to make the money back, so their plan to return the money to Warren's father will no longer work. Dennis makes arrangements to sell Warren's antique toys instead and leaves on that errand just as Jessica arrives at the apartment.
Jessica cancels their plans to get brunch, saying she had a huge fight with her mom because she was out so late with Warren. She asks him if he told Dennis that they had sex. He admits that he did, and Jessica becomes angry because she told Valerie they didn't, and now she's going to look like a liar. They argue for a bit, but Warren admits that he really likes her and is excited about the prospect of possibly going out with her. She jokes about him giving her a present as an apology, and he tries to give her his grandfather's baseball cap as a token of how much he likes her, but she refuses to take it. They part on bad terms.
Suddenly the phone rings, and in the process of answering it, Warren spills all the cocaine that Dennis bought the previous night. Warren's dad is on the phone, and the two argue. Dennis comes home and reveals that his dealer connection overdosed on drugs and died. He performs a monologue, talking about life and death, as well as his family. Warren finally stands up to Dennis, demanding to know why he treats him so poorly. Warren says that it doesn't matter because it's just the way he talks, and in the course of the argument, Warren reveals that Dennis is his hero. This causes Dennis to cry. They smoke pot together, and Warren gives a monologue about the failures of his father. As the play ends, Dennis asks Warren what he's going to do. Warren answers, "I don't know, man. I guess I'll just go home."