Earlier this week, I made my way over to The Roxy on Gateway to check out What It Is Productions’ The Aliens, by Annie Baker.
In The Aliens, we hang out in a back alley behind a coffee shop with KJ (Chris W. Cook) and Jasper (Evan Hall), two artists who live on the edges of society. As they test out songs and read pages of a novel-in-progress, they’re joined by Evan (Michael Vetsch), an unconfident 17-year-old who works at the cafe they’re hanging out behind. The Aliens is a story where not a lot happens by way of plot, but we get to spend time with three young men who aren’t typically in the spotlight.
The Aliens is one of those plays you just have to see in person – reading the script just doesn’t do it justice. As I noted in the preview, playwright Annie Baker notes in the script that 1/3 – 1/2 of the play is to be silent. In reading the play, I thought The Aliens would move slowly, but primarily thanks to the antics of Chris W. Cook as KJ, it feels like we’re hanging out with an old friend in comfortable silence.
What stood out most to me in The Aliens is the way people sometimes come together at exactly the right time and the ways in which those people need each other. Annie Baker and the What It Is Production’s team interweave KJ, Jasper, and Evan’s stories in a way that made me reflect on the formation of friendships and how friends support each other. KJ and Jasper have that type of comfortable friendship that only comes after being forged in some of the darkest places of a person’s life, and you can see it in the way they accept each other’s flaws and have a deep-seated understanding of how the other needs their support. When they meet Evan, KJ and Jasper immediately recognize a kinship with Evan and take him under their wings. While they don’t necessarily give him advice, they encourage and support him in gaining the confidence to discover himself as he is at an inflexion point in his life.