"Chill" Synopsis


Plot points may be revealed below.

Act I
March 2001: The basement of Jenn’s house in Brookline, Massachusetts.

Four high school seniors gather: There’s the high-achieving Jenn; who has a crush on the smart, charismatic Ethan; then there’s punchy, gregarious Allie; and athletic Stu.

They drink warm beer, argue over movies, get into wrestling matches, debate the faults of Andrew Jackson, the faults of their parents. They lay bare their dreams for life ahead, dream up awesome road trips, and rail against everything they can’t stand about life in the suburbs.

College admissions are on everyone’s mind, and Stu opens up about the choice he’s facing: he’ll have to decide between a school that’s better academically, and one with a great baseball program. Meanwhile, Alli wonders if she’ll make it in anywhere at all. When tension rises between the two girls and Alli tells Jenn to just “chill,” Jenn launches back: “I don’t think Woody Guthrie was chill. I don’t think Quentin Tarantino was chill. I don’t think anyone who’s ever actually accomplished anything is chill… And maybe if you were a little less chill, you wouldn’t be so worried about whether you’re going to get into college.”
The guys leave for another party, leaving Jenn and Alli to smooth things over.

Act II
November 2011.

Alli is now a Pilates instructor; Ethan is working on a PhD in environmental engineering. Stu, now engaged, works in real estate in New York, and Jenn continues to chip away at her unfinished novel, while holding down her day job writing web content.

They’ve all returned to recreate a hangout from the good old days; yet regret has, in one way or another, seeped into their lives: Stu abandoned his dream of a baseball career. Jenn feels she’s compromised her ambitions too, churning out endless superficial articles and “clickbait.”

Growing up, it seems, has turned out tougher than anyone expected, between the turbulent events of the 2000’s and the usual aches and pains of adulthood. When left alone for a few moments, Jenn and Ethan kiss—but the others soon come back.

Alli is persistent in trying to liven the mood. But when a fun party game abruptly turns political, deep wounds are opened. Stu, it turns out, has become a stalwart conservative. Ethan digs into him; Stu fires back, lambasting his PhD as an indulgent waste of time and money. But Ethan insists his work around climate change will save lives one day; and he’d take that over Stu’s deluded pursuit of the American Dream. Then, when Alli finds out she wasn’t invited to Stu’s wedding, Stu and Ethan both decide it’s time to go.

Alone with Alli, Jenn admits how disappointed she is in how her life has turned out—yet Alli asks why Jenn holds herself to such a high standard. Is it because she sees herself as superior, destined to rise above her friends’ mediocrity?

As the play ends, we see the toll adulthood has taken on old friendships—but also the resilient moments where friendship still pulls through.