The kids are taking over the Great White Way. Since its first production in 1996, Kenneth Lonergan’s caustic comedy This Is Our Youth has attracted the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Paquin, and Mark Ruffalo. And on Sept. 11, the three-person play about wealthy teens in early-’80s Manhattan makes its Broadway debut with a new trio of stars. Kieran Culkin, Tavi Gevinson, and Michael Cera, fresh off a trial run at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, tell EW how their lives led them to This.
Culkin first performed This Is Our Youth 12 years ago in London’s West End— and never forgot about it. “The moment that production ended, I thought, ‘How can we do this again?'” says the 31-year-old. “Broadway is great, but if we have to do it in some garage in the middle of nowhere, I’d be happy doing it there, too.” Culkin admits a kinship with his character, Dennis, an enterprising and quick-to-quarrel drug dealer with far-reaching goals. “One of the reasons why I don’t work all that often is I don’t often click with things, so I’m always looking for some other job—maybe not even acting—that will click,” he says. “After this I can, I don’t know, quit acting, or have children, or start whatever the next phase of life is supposed to be.” Or maybe, Culkin jokes, he’ll find another play to occupy the next decade.
On paper, Gevinson is the newcomer of the cast. But as Culkin puts it, “She’s apparently a real big deal.” She founded a fashion blog at 11, started the online magazine Rookie at 15, and made her film debut in last year’s Enough Said opposite James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. “I love acting, but I really like that it’s just one thing I do,” says Gevinson, now 18, who was in the midst of workshopping another play at Steppenwolf when she landed the role of prickly fashion student Jessica. “I’ve reconciled that by looking to people like Susan Sontag or Kanye West, who have refused to be limited in any way.” For the budding lifestyle mogul, one draw of the stage is face time with her young fans, who crowd the stage door to share a moment with their teen role model. “It’s wonderful that critics have liked it and that adults com and seem to approve,” she says, “but the litmus test for any art form is if a bunch of teenage girls like it, because that’s the most pure love there is. It thrills me that I can be a part of something that those girls might relate to.”
Theater wasn’t on the Arrested Development star’s mind until Culkin, whom Cera met while shooting 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, persuaded him to read the play. “It was never a goal of mine until Kieran brought it up, and suddenly I could see what the joy would be to do a show like this for an extended period of time,” says the actor, 26, who immediately gravitated toward the role of Warren, a self-destructive teen who flees home after he steals $15,000 from his cruel tycoon father. After appearing with Culkin in a brief run of the play in Australia in 2012, Cera grasped the electricity of live performance. “You can’t do this automatic self-review thing you do on movie sets, where you do a take and run it back in your head. It’s really liberating, getting to experience people feeling a story, instantly, for the first time.”
This article appears in Entertainment Weekly‘s August 22/29, 2014 issue.