Your early 20s are a perfect breeding ground for crisis. Your presentation of adulthood and responsibility is merely a facade over a personality that is no better than your teenage self. If anything, this facade makes it more dangerous and annoying, because it means you’re unable to accept the reality that it is quite normal not to have everything figured out.
Then, there is the crisis of being in your early 20s today. An age already a nightmare to deal with is placed in an age of chaos and strife. How do you deal with the world's weight on your shoulders if you feel as if the world can actually slip off and fall at any moment?
Is Everything Okay, written by Alexia Shaw, aims to tackle this overwhelming issue and channels it in an overall charming minimal production filled with laughs and comfort. The play follows friends Danny, Freddie and Jack, who are spending the weekend house-sitting in the strange, apocalyptic country town of Overlake. The friendship group is tense as the three deal with the aftermath of Danny’s attempted suicide, or arguably, as some characters try to forget it happened in the first place. When Danny starts receiving visions from the town’s local eldritch being, the three must cope with how things have changed in order to save their dear friend.
It is a nice take on the being-20-is-hard subgenre that dominates my media consumption. It also understands what makes good fantasy/sci-fi/any genre that requires a suspension of disbelief - the centring of humanity despite the otherworldly forces fighting against it. The most significant conflict of the play - Danny being overcome by a mysterious voice asking to sacrifice themselves - is bargained by suggesting Danny do this for their friends. If Danny sacrifices themselves, their friends and family, and the rest of the world will benefit. Yet, while this topic is wholly depressing and very much unbelievable in reality, a joke will follow a dark moment that balances the heaviness of the themes. These jokes could be about correlation equalling causation or the nature of a specific baker's delight.
The characters themselves drive the play's themes, even with the undeniably weird vibes permeating from this fake town. Each character can be seen as an archetype of a person in their 20s. Freddie is a character who is still sticking to their childhood, or naive, vision of her life, unable to see the people not identifying with the dreams of their past. Her obsession with itineraries, and returning to the way things were, ends up harming her boyfriend and best friend.
On the other hand, Jack is simply trying to figure out who he is. Currently studying horticulture and aiming for stand-up comedy, there are tropes that one can laugh at, making him fit into the aimless 20-something stereotype. But there is a relatability and depth to this typically written stock character, as he just wants Freddie to see him as he is.
It is possibly Danny who is provided with the most depth as the character fighting the evil monster. Danny appears to be the stand-in for those 20-somethings who feel as if the world's fate rests on them, that any little decision they make will shape their life forever. It is an exhausting way to live, one made more tiresome by Danny thinking they’re the only ones who can think that way.
It is easy to see a bit of yourself in each of these characters, especially with the comedic timing and physical control each actor has over their characters, that they become slightly more than tropes typical of media about the 20-something. Though Danny is possibly the character with more complexity the audience can look into, each character provides their charisma to the storyline in what sells the play.
Is Everything Okay is ambitious, and sometimes its ambition overwhelms what it is saying so that some of its ideas don’t fully settle with the audience. But what is left is a delightful charm with an ending that even warms the cynic in the reviewer.