Venus Theatre has a knack for finding new scripts that make you ache and ruminate all at once—appealing at once to emotion and intellect, deeply, endlessly. Garbage Kids, a tale of homelessness and survival, follows suit.
Belly (Jay Hardee) and Scuzzy (Deborah Randall, who also does double duty as director) meet while in foster care and run away together, fleeing a hoarder’s filthy basement. They set up shop on the street, eating out of dumpsters while Belly busks for money. He’s sweet and stable—especially next to the snarky, antagonistic Scuzzy—and loves to sing twangy, folky songs for change. It’s a job that takes talent, which he’s got.
Scuzzy—nee Samantha—is less productive, spending her days at a playground where she befriends a mousy Woman (Amy Belschner Rhodes, who provides a lot of amusement as the Woman and couple of job interviewers) mourning a broken relationship with her daughter. She brings Scuzzy sandwiches and begs her to come live with her.
But Scuzzy is a self-described angry kid who gives the woman a lot of grief. “If being your daughter is so great, why’d she leave?” she asks the Woman, rejecting her proposition.
Belly and Scuzzy grow together, transitioning from friends to lovers whose past homelessness binds and divides them forever.
As director, Randall has presented what could be a disjointed tale with profound clarity. Act I, as the program’s Director Notes state, is a memory—or rather a series of memories that spring back and forth in point of view between Belly and Scuzzy. It’s erratic, but strangely familiar. And there, the credit goes to playwright Jayme Kilburn, who has precisely illustrated the way in which we internally self-narrate our own stories. So, is what I write above the actual timeline of Belly and Scuzzy?
It’s hard to say, and not nearly as important as knowing that these two, in the midst of turmoil, found one another and some small joys. Singing. Eating sandwiches. Playing and laughing together—even as a couple of throw-a-ways, unwanted by parents who, it seems, failed at life. Garbage Kids is less about the sequence of Belly and Scuzzy’s journey, and more about how it colors them long into adulthood.
closes June 12, 2016
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And we get to see that. Present day in Act II. While they sit. Feet swinging. On a bridge. Enjoying wine and sandwiches. They reminisce. About habits or beliefs childhood homelessness and poverty instilled in them. How they can, or can’t, preserve good memories when they are so entangled with bad ones. It’s a tender scene too perfect for words, especially as Belly describes his fear that even the smallest ripple will shatter his hard-won stability.
That perfection is largely thanks to Hardee and Randall, who are funny, infuriating, and captivating. Belly and Scuzzy are manic, mouthy, imaginative kids and candid, earnest, conflicted adults struggling with self-worth.
“I just don’t think anyone cares enough,” child Scuzzy tells child Belly, “to find us.” It’s a deep breath kind of moment you remember as adult Belly tells adult Scuzzy that the one person who does care is the physical manifestation of his internal misery.
Whoa. And Bravo, Garbage Kids.
Garbage Kids by Jayme Kilburn. Directed by Deborah Randall. Featuring Deborah Randall, Jay Hardee, Amy Belschner Rhodes. Production: Amy Belschner Rhodes, Scenic Designer . Neil McFadden, Sound Designer . Kristin Thompson, Light Designer . Deborah Randall, Props and Costumes . Lydia Howard, Stage Management and Light Board Operator . Produced by Venus Theatre . Reviewed by Kelly McCorkendale.