Culture | Reliving the awkward phase

Puberty takes centre stage at TNC’s Be Tween

Tuesday Night Café Theatre Company’s Be Tween opened January 18 at Morrice Hall. Written and directed by Concordia student Phoebe Fregoli, the show managed to be at once thoughtful, funny, and endearing. The original one-act tells the story of a group of teenagers stumbling through their feelings as the big dance approaches.

Yogurt tubes, playground basketball, and crushes are all central to the play, which draws most of its laughs from nostalgic references to awkward middle-school moments. Set transitions are accompanied by mid-2000s hits like Beautiful Soul, Kiss Me Thru The Phone, and Low. The play’s exploitation of nostalgia may evoke more than funny and relatable moments for those who grew up in the mid-to-late 2000s. This tactic of creating an odd, asynchronous aesthetic made the play’s cheesy moments, old-school slang, and almost-forgotten references into something familiar yet out-of-place.

This tactic of creating an odd […] aesthetic made the play’s cheesy moments, old-school slang, and almost-forgotten references into something familiar yet out of place.

Although fantastical, Be Tween is an endearing play. The relationships between the characters, exaggerated archetypes of middle-school teens, are simplified to saccharine best-friendships and misinformed rivalries that are easily overcome. The dreamy manner in which the characters walk through their troubles is unrealistic. However, with the play’s skillful acting and effective plot development, somehow it all works – as the audience becomes emotionally attached to the characters, their actions become charming and welcome.

Queer relationships are formed as the play concludes, ending it off on an optimistic note. Though normative ideas about sexuality have been and are still pervasive in most middle-school environments, the play sought to subtly dismantle these norms. None of the characters differentiated between heterosexual and queer relationships, creating a sense of unquestioned acceptance. Heteronormative attitudes are absent from not only the play, but the characters themselves.

Fregoli’s script is strong, but the play benefits most from her directing. Middle-schoolers are often professional daydreamers, and the characters in Be Tween are of no exception. Their fantasies – a first kiss, for example – take the form of monologues and are acted out on stage. Bedtime rituals allow for further insight into the characters as they all go to bed on the stage next to each other, but in their own worlds. These are only a few of the moments where Fregoli’s creative directing stood out.

Be Tween is a feat – a play that manages to cover important social issues, provide a happy escape, and bring out a shared history that many of McGill’s current students will remember.