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Going the Distance

Las Vegas Little Theatre has big hopes for “The Distance From Here.” Running for seven nights at LVLT’s Black Box Theatre, from Friday-Oct. 19, the slacker play is part of an ongoing effort to introduce a new generation to the dramatic arts.

“It seems to me that a lot of younger folks who haven’t been exposed to theater perceive it as this boring thing that older, artsy-fartsy people go to,” said theater President Walter Niejadlik, “that it isn’t accessible to everyone or as timely as things you would see in the movies.”

Las Vegas Little Theatre, a 30-year-old amateur company, uses its smaller, 40-seat Black Box to present edgier fare. Last year, it hosted the similarly potty-mouthed “Poona the F-Dog” and “Dog Sees God,” a Peanuts satire whose original run was extended three days to accommodate unexpected demand.

Written by Neil LaBute, known for his cynical view of relationships, “The Distance From Here” follows two suburban teenagers who lack direction, purpose and jobs. The ’90s-set plot arcs around a violent reaction one has to a life event.

The play was suggested to Niejadlik by Will Klundt, a theater teacher at Shadow Ridge High School, who makes his Las Vegas directorial debut with it. (Previously, he directed “High School Musical” at the Albuquerque Little Theater in his home state of New Mexico.)

“I wanted to work on the play to understand why teenagers get violent,” said Klundt, who is 28. “What’s going on in their lives that is causing them to have these feelings?”

Two of the play’s eight actors, and all but one of the crew members come from Klundt’s classroom. (His wife, Rachel, is the assistant director.)

“I see about 200 kids a day,” Klundt said. “They struggle all the time, and I just wanted to know more about them.”

The faltering economy pumps new relevance into the 2002 script, since tens of thousands of young people are about to face a real world with limited career options.

“That’s one of the themes of the play,” Klundt said. “You start off on this path and all these other factors come into play — the economy, teachers who don’t get involved in your lives and parents who seem disconnected.”

“The Distance From Here” runs Thursday-Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. General admission is $12, $11 for seniors and students. For details, call 362-7996.

Contact reporter Corey Levitan at clevitan@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0456.

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