Not just another teenage play

Standing up for everything she loves.
Standing up for everything she loves. // Annelisa Leinbach

“all of what you love and none of what you hate” is noise. It’s the good kind of noise. You know, the kind of noise you blast from your headphones with eyes closed to block out a culture saturated with stimuli — a culture bubbling with media like music, magazines and social networks. Playwright Phillip Howze DRA ’15 takes us into the mind of a contemporary teenage girl. This character (Zenzi Williams DRA ’15) is trying to find the right kind of noise, or just a friend who won’t put her on hold for Someone-on-the-other-line when coping with the overwhelming pressure from her mom (Prema Cruz DRA ’14), her friend (Tiffany Mack DRA ’15) and her boyfriend (Cornelius Davidson DRA ’15).

The show opens with the struggling teen sitting at the center of her room, obviously perturbed by some sort of burdening silence, foreshadowing her struggles with growing up. The set itself, designed by Portia Elmer DRA ’15 and Mariana Sanchez DRA ’15, is an ingenious demonstration of just how toxic contemporary culture can be for a girl. She is surrounded by magazine cutouts of pop idols, but what would a cutout of herself represent if it were also on the wall? That is, the show raises the question of what a girl is supposed to want or do, given the mixed messages on love, sex and femininity embodied in photos of Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and the like. The harm that comes from these conflicting thoughts is visually represented by the mess of clothing and furniture around her, disheveled and arranged radially as if exploding out of the room and into the audience.

“all of what you love and none of what you hate” does not hold back. As if exemplifying the bombardment of information characteristic of modern society, the entire space of the intimate venue is put to use. Projection designer Paul Lieber DRA ’13 uses notable projections as virtual extensions of the set, offering fleeting digital components that are reminiscent of a browser’s tabs or pop-ups. Key sound choices also add to the effect. The show is visually and aurally loud as it reels you into a teenager’s world as it is about to explode.

However, the girl is not alone in this struggle. While the show focuses on the central theme of this teenager’s struggle, it also points to the fact that each character has individual issues — noise — to deal with. A single mother of two children, Cruz’s character is trying to figure out parenthood and a love life of her own after an unsuccessful marriage. Cruz plays an obsessive and lonely single parent in a way that’s believable — the noise in her world resonates from self-help books and advice columns. The boyfriend played by Davidson tries to be as “cool” as possible and makes hurtful mistakes that he’s not ready to admit to. Davidson plays a crude and idiotic boy, and Williams, an insecure but rational girl. Altogether, it is unconvincing that the two could have been a couple, however temporary their relationship was. Even so, the difference between the struggles of the modern boy and girl is apparent and powerful.

Finally, Mack plays a gal pal who is the personification of this overcharged society. She is fluent in hasty speech, and functions in the fast-paced world around her with natural ease, facing daily woes (like catching a woman watching pornography at the public library) with a kind of bluntness that will make you laugh. But then there is the poignant moment when she reacts to her troubled friend’s problems with a kind of false sympathy that says, “You should have seen this coming.” Don’t be tempted to brush her off as the ditzy friend just yet.

“all of what you love and none of what you hate” is a show about questions. Each of these characters raises questions about who we are and who we are expected to be. So expect to reflect.

The show is playing at the Yale Cabaret and runs through Jan. 19.

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