Eric Bogosian’s 1994 meditation on restless youth holds an iconic place in that decade’s grunge-and-apathy boom, so when Bogosian and director Jo Bonney announced their intention to update subUrbia for 2006, it seemed like a risky idea with great potential. The new text, for the most part, succeeds: Seven twentysomethings still spend a night hanging out and breaking down in front of a convenience store. But there’s fresh relevance in Navy vet Tim (Peter Scanavino) — rewritten as a mental casualty of the Iraq war — and Neil ”Pony” Moynihan (Michael Esper), a childhood friend/rock star who perfectly symbolizes America’s current love affair with insta-famous emo bands. Even the boom box the kids carry around now features an iPod deck.
Thus, the show’s bizarre lack of punch must be attributed to the actors, several of whom are simply not up to the job. The biggest failing is Daniel Eric Gold’s squinty Jeff, whose grandiose, self-sabotaging theories come across as banal whining instead of totally, like, deep. Luckily, two dynamic performers pick up some of the slack: Kieran Culkin as burnout savant Buff and Halley Feiffer (daughter of cartoonist Jules) as an alienated addict whose lonely dance to Sleater-Kinney’s ”Jumpers” is a mesmerizing peek at the sort of postteen angst that never goes out of style.