For Carlos Sanchez and Tyler Murphy, it’s Warren times two in Fresno State’s ‘This Is Our Youth’

I am sitting in front of two Warrens.

In the new Fresno State production of Kenneth Lonergan’s “This Is Our Youth,” which opens Friday, Oct. 29, two casts alternate performances through the run. That means two actors — Tyler Murphy and Carlos Sanchez — play the same leading role, just at different times.

Pictured above: Tyler Murphy, left, and Carlos Sanchez alternate the role of Warren in ‘This Is Our Youth.’ Photo: Fresno State

You could say Murphy and Sanchez are like two planets in a solar system. They share a sun — which in this case you could think of as Lonergan’s script, Brad Myers’ direction, and the scenic design. But just as planets in the same system can have different atmospheres and topography, the performances you’ll see on stage from each of the actors will likely be noticeably different. Myers gave them the flexibility they needed to create their characters as they saw fit. The casts rehearsed apart for most of the process, and it was only when the show began to come together that Warren No. 1, say, could see what kind of interpretation Warren No. 2 was giving the role.

It’ll all still a bit of a mind bend for the two actors.

“I’ve never even understudied before,” says Murphy. “So this is a completely new experience.”


I interviewed Murphy and Sanchez in person, at the same time. It was sort of like interviewing identical twins. Or perhaps clones raised in different households. Some highlights:

Auditions for the production went really, really well. Plus, with such a small cast, double-casting gives more acting opportunities: “Everyone was giving their 100%,” Murphy says of the audition and callback process. “There are only three characters, and that’s really tiny. So Brad was already contemplating double casting because it gives more people opportunities. But then he saw all of us during callbacks, and he just couldn’t see doing it without the six of us in these roles.”

In the play, it’s 1982 New York, and 19-year-old Warren steals $15,000 in cash from his dad, a wealthy lingerie tycoon: For the next 48 hours, Warren –described as a “pot-smoking, burnout rebel” — goes on a bender with his buddy, the 21-year-old Dennis, a pot dealer with a bit of a swagger. There’s a third character in the play: Jessica, who is Warren’s love interest.

There’s backstory, of course. Warren’s sister was murdered when he was 9 years old, which really screwed him up: “And I think the play really comes around his transition from being stuck at that point when he was 9 years old to really becoming an adult and becoming his own person,” Sanchez says.

But it isn’t a mere caper comedy. There’s something deeper at work here: The money doesn’t really drive the narrative. “It’s not a dark comedy, but something in between. I wouldn’t actually consider it a comedy. But it is very comedic,” Murphy says.

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The era is important: Lonergan, the playwright, grew up in the 1980s. Reaganism was king, and an upcoming generation was trying to figure out its place in the world.

The director deliberately kept the two actors apart in early rehearsals while they developed their characters: When I talk to them a few days before opening, they’d only seen each other perform the role twice. “The first time was about halfway through the rehearsal process when we did our first run-through,” Murphy tells me. “And so each cast watched the entire run through of the other. At that point, it’s not so much that we had cemented our characters but we had an idea of who we were. And then yesterday was the other time.”

Audiences will definitely see a difference between the two interpretations: They even wear different costumes. Murphy considers himself a bit more high-strung and excitable, and he knows he brings that energy to the role. Sanchez categorizes himself as more mellow. Interestingly, Murphy says that Sanchez brings more humor to the role. “And I have to just remember that this is a different interpretation. “And he gets laughs at different spots than I do. I think that’s what’s brilliant about it is they’re so different. You have to see it twice.”

It was weird, and illuminating, for each to see another version of the same character, almost like an out-of-body experience: Sanchez thought there were moments when Murphy’s interpretation is amazing, as if Murphy had a direct connection to the playwright. Myers did tell them both to feel free to steal from each other’s interpretation. Says Sanchez: “I thought that trying to do what (Tyler) did would just be a sort of a betrayal of my interpretation. But it was amazing to see. It’s like ripping the character out of the pages and seeing it — and then seeing yourself in that position as well.”

Show info

‘This Is Our Youth,’ a Fresno State University Theatre production at the Woods Theatre. Opens 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29. Continues through Nov. 6. Tickets are $17 general, $15 seniors, $10 students.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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