Cristina Patalas is used to playing the villainess. But as the ruthless Irene in Pains of Youth, the St. Albert actor had to struggle to find her character’s humanity.
“I’ve played a lot of bitchy women, but ‘sociopath’ has been thrown around for her,” says Patalas relishing this character stretch.
“Irene is brutally ambitious and finds it impossible to empathize with people around her. She wants to beat everyone in every way.”
Patalas, a fourth year bachelor of fine arts student at the University of Alberta, delivers one of the most crackling roles in Pains of Youth opening at the Timms Centre on Thursday, Oct. 31 for a 10-day run.
Written by Ferdinand Bruckner and translated by Martin Crimp, this psychological drama follows a group of struggling medical students in 1920s Vienna. Set in a boarding house, the drama reveals the sexual misadventure of horny medical students and the twisted psychological games they play to achieve their ends.
“It’s just one thing after another and the quality of these people is so manipulative. It’s a psychological mind trip and who can mess each other up the most wins,” Patalas explains.
Situated between the two great European wars, it is a time of economic hyperinflation and unrest. Social instability is mounting and the rise of various political movements becomes rampant as youth rebel against the established bourgeois lifestyle. The stale smell of war hangs in the air and fascism looms on the horizon.
“Ferdinand wrote about a generation that was facing an uncertain and bleak future. They were entering a world with a wide economic depression. There was not a lot of hope for that generation. The world was coming through a lot of challenges and the younger generation faced a glut of problems,” explains director Kim McCaw.
He compares the play’s characters to the 21st century’s new crop of 20-somethings facing an ambiguous economic future compared to the more affluent boomer generation.
“The people in these plays are very recognizable. They’re trying to be in love. They’re arguing. They have happy moments and they fight to find a better future for themselves as they go through difficult trying times.”
However, their meetings at the boarding house turn into a psychological war.
“It’s all about what goes on in the mind. They play games. They intimidate and seduce one another. It’s also fuelled heavily by emotion. It’s what they want badly and will do to get it.”
The septet is viewed from a steamy lens. Irene, the ruthless underdog steals Petrell, Marie’s boyfriend. Instead of crying, Marie hooks up with Desiree, the disillusioned aristocrat. Freder, the game player, keeps the women hot and bothered while Alt was in prison for killing a child.
Patalas closes by saying, “I see there are a lot of young people like this. Late teens and young adults are desperate not be a clichÄ‚Â©, they’re desperate to reinvent what the past generation was. It’s import we view this struggle. Life is brutal. There’s no way around it.”
Pains of Youth
Oct. 31 to Nov. 9
Timms Centre, University of Alberta
87 Ave. and 112 St.
Tickets: $11 to $22. Call 780-420-1757 or purchase online at www.tixonthesquare.ca