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U.S. Drag

U.S. Drag

Illinois Central Theatre Department
November 11-13 & 15-20
By Cara Rosson 

“US Drag” is a term coined by writer and performer William S. Burroughs in his novel Naked Lunch. It refers to a kind of malaise, or longing, peculiar to Americans. And this play by screenwriter Gina Gionfriddo is full of just that – every character in the play is looking and longing for something, but none of them know exactly what “it” is.

Astutely subtitled “A Jet-Black Comedy,” US Drag follows the adventures of two recent Vassar graduates, Allison and Angela, as they search for “it,” though mostly for money and a good time, in New York City. Allison and Angela are definitely not poor, nor are any of the other characters in the play. They are all comfortable-enough white, 20-somethings who nonetheless feel depressed and anxious and completely dissatisfied with life and what it has given them.

Allison and Angela are completely self-centered, over-educated for the entry-level jobs they are quitting in a big publishing house, and seem to expect the good life to come find them without much effort on their part. But unsympathetic they are not! They are quite funny, and will likely make you a little uncomfortable, as some of their whining will probably sound awfully familiar – especially if you are under the age of 50. If you are older than 50, they'll probably sound a lot like your kids or grandkids.

Lauren Jane Bowling and Shadia Ghantous do a great job of making these two spoiled American girls interesting and fun to watch. Their characters end up getting involved in S.A.F.E., a neighborhood watch type group out to help people Stay Away From “Ed,” a serial attacker terrorizing the city. The eager founder of S.A.F.E., the uber-helper Evan (played with great enthusiasm by Sam Curry), is encouraging people to stop helping anyone who asks for help, as this is how “Ed” lures his victims. And yes, the irony is rich.

Other characters include Allison and Angela's super uptight Wall Street banker roommate, Ned (played by Ryan Schwalk), and completely self-pitying writer Christopher (played by Matt Pleasant). Every single character represents some piece of that US Drag – the self-absorbed, self-pity we all see in ourselves and others everyday, this modern and uniquely American angst. To varying degrees of course. We are the richest nation on the planet, and yet we still aren't satisfied with our lives or our country.

The self-deprecating humor of the play is never didactic, and though the story is not overtly dramatic, it moves along quickly and holds your attention. The show ran as one act, for an hour and forty minutes, but I had lost track of time wondering if Allison and Angela would actually find Ed, or something that would work for them.

Much credit goes to director Robin Berkley for keeping the play light and funny, and sailing right along. The simple but flexible set by Annette Vargas, with rotating walls and multiple levels, allowed the cast to move up, down and around one another as quickly as the shallow banter flew out of their mouths.

US Drag is a biting and funny look at our society – about what it means to “matter” is today's world. It touches on many deep issues of worth, importance, and happiness, and yet feels a lot like watching modern television and internet – fast paced, sarcastic, and sometimes pretty silly.  The show runs through November 20th at ICC's East Peoria Performing Arts Center with performances at 7:30 pm each night and 2:30 pm on Sunday.  Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens and are available at the ICC Box Office, by calling 309-694-5136. For more information, visit 

Posted November 16, 2011


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