By Daniel Skora
Tipping Point Theatre is closing out its 10th Anniversary season with “Young Americans”. No, not those Young Americans who want to improve their musical and performance skills by way of what’s become a worldwide program for youth and young adults wishing to hone their talents on their way to something bigger and better. It’s hard to imagine that Caesar Moon, rock star extraordinaire whose shows sell out within minutes of going on sale and whose ability to drive the young ladies wild is legendary, could ever have been a part of something so rudimentary. More likely, the title of this world premiere of David Wells’s new play owes its inspiration to the like-titled “Young Americans”, a 1975 album by rock chameleon David Bowie.
Owen Lovejoy (Michael Brian Ogden), for all the adulation and wealth he has accumulated from adoring fans and chart-topping albums, has had his fill of both fame and of Caesar Moon, the man whose name and persona he assumes whenever he performs. Tonight, as he sits in his dressing room awaiting his call to go onstage, he is making plans to end the career of his alter ego. But first he must deal with a teenager who has somehow gotten past security and sneaked into his room.
Sixteen year old CeCe (Katie Terpstra) is a rock groupie and a die-hard Caesar Moon fan. While Lovejoy sees her as just another in a long line of impressionable females who desire a piece of his celebrity, this one has other intentions. CeCe has dreams of becoming a journalist and what better way to get into journalism school than to have scored an interview with a notoriously secretive entertainer. Both rock star and uber fan, it turns out, are strong-willed persons, and as the two begin their verbal sparring, it’s anyone’s guess whether it will end with Lovejoy having the intruder removed from his dressing room, CeCe getting her interview, or Caesar Moon living to perform another day.
World premieres can often be a challenge to the presenting theatre. Having no precedent to relate to, it’s up to them to develop a production that not only satisfies the playwright’s intentions, but creates a production that will be of interest to the audience. Tipping Point’s “Young Americans” is both entertaining and visually appealing. Its kudos begin with the casting of Ogden and Terpstra. Ogden cuts an appealing figure as the temperamental and demanding Moon, prowling his dressing room like an anxious panther – bejeweled, tattooed, his black hair a sharp contrast to the shaved sides of his head. His British accent wavers (intentionally) only when Moon waxes nostalgic over his younger days spent in Akron.
CeCe is a character with one foot firmly planted in adolescence while the other treads the territory of a street-smart negotiator. Terpstra plays both sides perfectly. If Moon is the play’s downer, Terpstra/CeCe provide all the positive vibes the play could ever need.
Music enthusiasts of 70’s and 80’s rock will enjoy the show’s occupation with all things rock. The set (design and properties by Monika Essen) is an explosion of color and rock ‘n roll extravagance. It’s also a veritable passport to every rock legend that has ever used the dressing room where Moon now awaits his curtain call. Posters and autographs of significant artists of the period – Jethro Tull, The Police, Led Zeplin, The Who – cover the walls. Interesting tidbits of musical insight are scattered throughout the dialogue, at one time Moon and CeCe engaging in a spirited and impromptu reenactment of Mick Jagger giving out some of his famous “Satisfaction”.
In spite of its rock-themed flamboyance, “Young Americans” is more about personal identity and being comfortable with one’s self. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s about two completely different people connected by their love of the loud and pretentious music of their generation. As the British, whose groups have made more than a significant contribution to the genre might say, “It’s a jolly good show”.
“Young Americans” is directed by Frannie Sheperd-Bates. Costume design is by Colleen Ryan-Peters, lighting by Rachael Nardecchia and sound by Don W. Baschal. Stage manager is Tracy L. Spada assisted by Natalie LaCroix. The show runs through August 20th. Tickets are available online at www.tippingpointtheatre.com or by visiting or calling the theatre’s Box Office at 1.248.347.0003 between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Mon. through Fri. or 90 minutes prior to all performances, based on availability. Tipping Point Theatre is located at 361 E. Cady Street in Northville.