When Lilacs Last

By Monikha Reyes, 12th Grade, Frank Sinatra School of the Arts

When Lilacs Last is a coming-of-age tale of two boys struggling with their sexuality and the bigotry in society. The naming of the Walt Whitman Bridge has created a revolt in the community due to the poet’s “revolting homosexual imagery.” At the same time, Brendan, the jock, needs to understand the poetry of Walt Whitman in order to pass English. He seeks the help of Jackie, the smartest kid in school, who gets bullied for his interest in literature. Linked by poetry, the boys must suffer through their fathers’ abuse while trying to understand their own feelings.The acting overall is unsatisfying. The actors seem more concerned with being onstage than with the play itself. They don’t listen to each other or allow another person’s lines to affect them. The movement seems rehearsed and it is distracting to watch the actors give way to their arbitrary movement. The fourth wall is often broken by the actors, which becomes uncomfortable to watch at times because it is clear how nervous the actors are onstage – some avoid eye contact and fiddle with their costumes, while others play with their nails or fingers.

In between scenes, the actors seated in the front row recite Whitman’s poetry. However, more often than not, the lines come out forced, making it seem as though the actors do not know the meaning behind them.

At times, the play itself is unbearable. The relationship between the two boys and their fathers is a bit over-the-top, and the scenes that are not as intolerable are too long, repeating the same pushing and pulling between the actors. I would not recommend this play. By the end, I felt unmoved by the performance; it left me hanging, and not in a good way. As an audience member, the time invested did not match the return in the slightest.

Schedule and ticket information here.