Playwright: Sharon Krome
At: Chicago Mosaic School, 1101 W. Granville Ave. Tickets: NothingWithoutACompany.org; $10-$20; free on select days. Runs through: June 3
It's morning in America, but the kids aren't all right. In fact, they're mad as hell. They're also restless, yearning, questioningand sometimes falling-down drunk. In Sharon Krome's ThroatPunch, three young punks find solidarity and heartbreak in the darker corners of ReaganLand, where nuclear Armageddon doesn't seem like the stuff of dystopic fiction and police regularly harass people who don't fit in.
Krome's play, directed by Anna Rose-Li Epstein, is a shaggy affair, unfolding in a series of loopy vignettes that eventually do lead someplace. At times, it's like watching images from Nan Goldin's The Ballad of Sexual Dependency come to life, though the characters in Krome's 1983-era Chicago punk scene aren't as jaded as Goldin's collection of New York bohemians.
When we first meet teenager Nat ( Alicia Jade ), the nice Jewish girl from Skokie who is just getting into the scene, she's got a tampon shoved up one nostril to stanch the bleeding after taking an elbow to the face in the mosh pit. The graffiti-smeared, bottle-infested studio apartment where her new friends Zig ( Adam Huizenga ) and Cyn ( Tarina Bradshaw ) crash becomes a sanctuary and clubhouse. And her ability to actually play drums makes her an anomaly in a scene that prides passion over professional skills.
What comes outeventually, and with a few narrative hiccups along the wayis that all three of the kids are seeking a new identity in punk to escape their family histories. Cyn, whose mother is white, yearns to spend more time with her Black academic father in Georgetown and get back to the DC punk scene ( the one that spawned the pioneering black hardcore band Bad Brains ). Zig's satyr-like posturing and overblown British accent hide his own struggle with identity. And in her growing romantic desires for Cyn, Nat realizes that she's less about Black Flag and more about Lydia Lunch.
The hyper-realistic and elbow-to-elbow intimacy of the playing area ( Krome is credited with production design ) help make up for some of the discursive elements in the 90-minute play. What stands out the most by the end is Krome's understanding that even scenes set in defiant opposition to conformity have their own rigid demand for authenticity that can also be alienating. ( Misogyny also knows no musical boundaries. ) The line between defiance and desperation also gets blurry in Krome's world. "You're not worldly," Nat tells Cyn at one point. "You're homeless."
For people old enough to remember 1980s punk, ThroatPunch lands in the sweet spot of nostalgia for misspent youth. But by the end, Krome's play shows that every subculture needs its own revolution within to move into the future.