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After Ashley

It’s liable to appeal to today’s moodier teen far more than Rent.

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Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down) and Anna Paquin (X-Men) are Off Broadway’s petulant, dance-free, Gen-Y answer to Fred and Ginger. As the romantic leads of this wry new play by Gina Gionfriddo, she gives him sex and he gives her, if not class, then a certain sullen cool. The title refers to an exploitative true-crime book written by the bleeding-heart father of Justin, Culkin’s laconic young character. Without giving too much away, the same event that’s made the father famous as a sensitive do-gooder has made the son famous as “The 911 Kid.” “People on TV are eating bugs and marrying millionaires—shame is an idea whose time has come!” cries Justin.

While the reality-show skewering is pretty easy, there’s ultimately a much more sophisticated and welcome moral to the play: Respect the dead by not lying about them. And surely there’s a place in New York for a show in which alterna-heartthrobs quote from Man’s Search for Meaning, have sex on a hardwood floor, and decry the commoditization of tragedy. If nothing else, it’s liable to appeal to today’s moodier teen far more than Rent.

By Gina Gionfriddo
At the Vineyard Theatre through April 3


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