Heat up some Pizza Rolls, grab a Capri Sun and head to the world premiere of Clink, Clink, a decade-spanning millennial love story between two childhood friends. Currently running at the University of Denver Black Box through Dec. 18, the sophomore effort from 2¢ Lion Theatre Company investigates two young women’s exploration of identity and the changes in their relationship as they grow up.
Written by local playwright and 2¢ Lion executive director Kevin Douglas, the play follows Elliot (Izzy Chern) and Olivia (Gracie Jacobson) from age 7 in 1994 to age 35 in present-day 2022. The narrative unfolds throughout eight vignettes depicting key moments of their past, all set in Elliot’s childhood bedroom.
Both Chern and Jacobson are real-life friends offstage, which helps them depict their relaxed, comfortable friendship. Elliot is portrayed by Chern as confident, a little sarcastic, incredibly well-intentioned, and hopelessly in love with her best friend. Elliot has always been confident in her sexuality as a lesbian, but runs away from relationships when things get too serious. Though Elliot presents as a woman, she is increasingly uncomfortable with the rigidity of gender roles, particularly when she realizes she has no desire to fit into a monogamous, heteronormative relationship.
But this idyllic, suburban fantasy is exactly the kind of life Olivia wants. Not nearly as self-assured as Elliot, Jacobson plays Olivia as a control freak who identifies as bisexual and is trying to figure out how to be true to her desires while also creating the life (with a house, a loving partner and children) she’s always dreamed of. Rather than disappoint others and have hard conversations, Olivia skirts the uncomfortable questions.
Douglas’ script, often as funny as it is heartbreaking, explores their love for one another and their opposing views on happiness. Fundamentally, despite their shared queer identities and lifelong friendship, the two women have different visions of what they want in life. Elliot seeks an adventurous lifestyle in a tight-knit community that doesn’t conform neatly to societal expectations, while Olivia is in a hurry to settle down and start a family.
Though the pop culture references and music the characters share with each other change as time passes throughout the play, the same dynamic — Olivia’s clear vision of a nuclear family and Elliot’s clear lack of interest in this life but willingness to play along — continues for the next 28 years.
Anyone who grew up in the ’90s will feel a surge of nostalgia seeing the era of their childhood represented onstage in Clink, Clink. Each of the eight scenes begins with a mini-musical trip down memory lane — an edit of music, movie and television quotes, news headlines and other memorable sound bites from the year each scene takes place — that put the audience in the cultural headspace of the time.
Wes Mysinger dresses the actors in a variety of era-appropriate fashion trends while Merit Wiley’s set design is sharply updated throughout to reflect Elliot’s evolving interests as she grows up. Director Tamarra Nelson’s poignant staging provides the container for Chern and Jacobson to deliver two moving performances you’ll be thinking about for days.
ON STAGE: Clink, Clink by Kevin Douglas. Various times through Dec. 18, University of Denver Black Box, Johnson McFarlane Hall, 1901 East Iliff Ave. Tickets: pay-what-you-can ($10-30), twocentlion.com