Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The play subUrbia is concerned with a group of twenty-something people in the 1990s suburban United States. Playwright Eric Bogosian places the characters and action in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store. The plot, while not very well developed, includes the return of one young man, Neil Moynihan, known as “Pony” to his hometown. In contrast, the other local residents mostly lack ambition or are currently at a standstill. Another contrast is presented between the young people and the 7-Eleven’s managers, who are Pakistani immigrants with conflicting attitudes toward the American Dream.
Much of the play consists of dialogue of a sort that the characters probably have spoken to each other on many previous days. They reiterate their ostensible commitment to their dreams, such as escaping to the big city, becoming an artist, or attending college full time. This static, non-linear impression evokes Waiting for Godot or other Absurdist plays that lack definitive action. Here, however, the playwright also uses a central plot device, reminiscent of Friedrich Durenmatt’s The Visit, in which a successful ex-resident comes home temporarily and wreaks havoc. In Bogosian’s play, Pony is the only one of the former high-school friends who can be called a success. He has become a rock musician, and he arrives to give a concert. The others scoff at allegiance to their former classmate, which stops short of the prohibitively high ticket price.
In his fancy black stretch limousine with Erica, his glamorous, female Californian publicist, Pony pulls up to the parking lot. Some of the characters decide to go in the limo with him to get Chinese take-out. During the ride, the drunken Buff vomits in the car. They return to add the containers to the growing mound of trash in the parking lot. Erica temporarily disappears, and the others suspect that Tim, a military veteran, has killed her. In reality, they had spent the night together in a motel; when she returns, she flirts with Buff. Tim is the one to locate an actual corpse, that of Bee Bee, who is found on the 7-Eleven roof dead from a drug overdose.