If Jeff Bridges’ antihero from “The Big Lebowski” were to have a son, KJ from Annie Baker’s play The Aliens would do nicely. Now Lebowski was a good-hearted stoner, while KJ is a good-hearted slacker (though he does like to drink tea laced with psilocybin mushrooms). But they’ve got enough in common that when you experience KJ (Brian Butler) hanging out behind a coffeehouse with his pal, Jasper (Reed Willard), you may have a stoner-slacker flashback.
This is not to minimize Baker’s play, running through Dec. 12 at ion theatre, which is strangely mesmerizing despite the fact that it mostly consists of KJ and Jasper and the teenager (Tyler Oakley) they befriend sitting around near a dumpster, shooting the you know what. But Baker’s script possesses a sneaky intelligence to it, and there’s a sweetness to the relationship between KJ and teenager Evon that’s hard to resist. There are no aliens, by the way, in the extraterrestrial sense. That’s the name (one of them) of KJ and Jasper’s on-and-off band.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat