Suburbia

PSU's Lincoln Hall Studio Theatre, 725-4612, Fri-Sun, 7:30pm, through May 2, $6

I f there's one thing worse than seeing a 40-year-old soap opera star play Hamlet, it's watching a 20-year-old play King Lear. That's not to say that rebellious interpretation can't work, but sometimes sticking to your roots and playing it straight ahead is the best strategy. By this logic, Eric Bogosian's Suburbia, with its relentless minions of baggy-pantsed, teenaged losers, fares well at the college level, where watching the kids play anything BUT kids is generally a miserable experience.

Set in a convenience store parking lot in Anywhere USA, Suburbia's themes aren't universal, but they're certainly relevant to anyone who has grown up in America in the past 25 years. Bogosian's genius is in making palpable art for a generation choked on pop.

College student director Jayson Kochan has sacked pretension for frenetic ambition, concocting a handsome production. Where larger productions use multimedia and pop music to force texture out of a performance, Suburbia plays like a mix tape from your most beautiful, manic-depressive friend. Most important, however, are the performers, who are convincing. Paul Glazier is the central character, who has nothing to say and everything to complain about. Glazier even has the guts to pull off the obligatory college production male full-frontal scene. Erin Way plays the community college performance artist Sooze, flipping between Artforum and Seventeen, dreaming of New York. Pretentious alt-rocker Pony is played to a T by Brian Koch, who you can't help but like, despite his Goo Goo Doll grin and coffeehouse guitar.

Fans (or haters) of the Richard Linklater film adaptation of Suburbia will be put at a quandary over Ryan Tuttle's performance as Buff. I didn't need to see the film to know that Tuttle shares the same part as Steve Zahn; he seems to have pulled off some strange Faustian DNA experiment where he took on Zahn's every trait. Tuttle seems to most personify the charming, slacker center of the play; while the rest of the cast was busting their humps on the rehearsal stage, Tuttle was most likely smoking joints, watching Steve Zahn on his VCR, and proving himself the virtuoso bum. TOUSSAINT PERRAULT