The artistic directors of Australia’s capital city theater companies rarely find time to work outside their immediate environment, and when they do it’s unusual to find them gigging in the education sector. But that’s what Queensland Theater Company topper Michael Gow has done with his latest play, “17,” commissioned by London’s National Theater’s educational Shell Connections program and staged in Australia by Nicole Kidman’s alma mater, the Australian Theater for Young People.
Gow’s charming script about a girl approaching her 17th birthday with trepidation is written for two 16-year-old lead actresses and an ensemble of twentysomethings playing the birthday girl’s parents and crazy cousins.
Lisa Kowalski is terrific in the beautifully written role of Ella, who is fearful of the secrets she’s about to discover about a wacky extended family she never knew she had.
Nicholas Dare’s simple set, a suburban house interior and a doorway at once representing the front door and an exit to another realm, is effective.
But Gow’s script is undoubtedly the star of “17.” Scribe has rendered his teenagers as smart, empathetic and ultimately wiser than their elders, surely the greatest gift a writer can give young performers and their audiences.