*****************The sounds of raucous kids emanate from backstage while theatergoers wait for Once and For All We're Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen to begin at the Duke on 42nd Street. Once the house lights have dimmed -- and following a youthfully arrogant if sometimes slightly incomprehensible monologue -- the offstage pandemonium spills onto the stage, and the 13-member cast roughhouses, dances, makes out, and gets high. It's an arresting beginning to an absorbing hour-long portrait of the utter confusion of being a teenager.
A buzzer interrupts the young people's shenanigans, and they quickly clean up their mess and hustle off stage. Soon, the blaring music of Stijn Degezelle's eclectic soundscape (which ranges from Peggy Le to Lou Reed) is roaring again, and the action begins anew. The young people go through the same basic routine, but there are slight variations in both action and tone, beautifully showing how often in the tumult of teenage emotions one action can have myriad meanings. Occasionally, the mayhem is interrupted by a brief monologue, such as when a young man walks downstage to describe his greatest fear (being like his parents) or when a young woman talks about what propels her through the oft-repeated sequence.
There are other sorts of variations throughout the work, including a notable sequence when four guys are left onstage and have to figure out whether or not to enact with one another the fumbling heterosexual lovemaking they usually do with the girls. The scene is not only charming, but seems incredibly brave as it reveals the sometimes homoerotic longings that can lie underneath aggressive teenage male bravura.
After one final monologue, in which a young woman explains that being a teenager means pushing the limits farther than any previous generation has, the company goes through their pattern of activities once more, proving her point with surprising poignancy.
-- Andy Propst