By Edward Medina
to New World Stages Theatre Four. Welcome to a Brechtian black box presentation
of testosterone driven madness. Welcome to a space where the aesthetics of
naturalism as theatrical illusion is nuked out of existence and the poetics of
epic theater abounds in its place.
you take your seat you will swear you hear the announcers call of a WWE
wrestling match. Sitting there in that heavily raked bowl of a space you'll be
subjected to pounding music, a heavy dose of atmospheric fog, and fixed and
focused lights that keep the space lit yet dim. You'll be surrounded by a
forced to be too loud crowd, and hawkers of peanuts and drinks. Until an
unannounced street gang of four begin to make their way down the aisle. The
thespian cage match is about to begin.
call themselves Droogs. They speak in a patois of their own making called
Nadsat which is a mix of Cockney slang, Shakespearian poetry, and Russian
vocabulary. They drink gads and gads of a drugged milk drink they call Moloko.
They fight amongst themselves. They fight with others of their kind. They
appear merciless. A gay man is beaten and raped. A rich woman is raped and
killed. This cacophony of ultra violence dance fighting galore is all done to a
soundtrack of Beethoven, Bowie, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, just to name a
ensemble of male actors Jimmy Brooks, Matt Doyle, Sean Patrick Higgins, Brian
Lee Huynh, Misha Osherovich, Ashley Robinson, Timothy Sekk, Alekssander
Varadian is led by the impressive Jonno Davies as Alex deLarge. Other than
Davies this ensemble will morph into a variety of characters, both male and
female, that tell Alex’s tale and in that they all do an exemplary job within
the parameters they’ve been given.
ne’er-do-well anti-hero is eventually imprisoned where he becomes Prisoner
6655321 and a subject of experimental aversion therapy to cure him of his evil ways
and turn him into a guinea pig of government reform. His love of music is
turned against him. It only serves to remind him of mental horrors forcibly
projected into his mind. It results in his ability to manifest violence being
taken from him. The thought alone pains him. He becomes a weakling before his
newly reformed Alex is granted early release as a reward for subjecting himself
to the cure of the state. His return brings him to a changed home life. His
parents reject him more than usual. There’s a new boarder occupying his old
room and his space in the family unit. His former Droog playmates are now on
the side of law enforcement. Ex-villains being used to catch real villains.
Alex ends up becoming a stranger in his own strange land and in his closing
monologue, delivered directly to us, he reminds us that there are many Alex’s
out there, there are also Droogs to be wary of, and they are creations of our
Burgess is credited with writing the play though he passed in 1993 without
actually writing a version for the stage. His dystopian novel, initially inspired
by the violent assault on his wife Lynn who was robbed, beaten, and raped by US
Army deserters during a World War II blackout, was first published in 1962. The
film adaptation of his work by Stanley Kubrick followed nearly a decade later
in 1971 but the singularly violent tone it set was created from the American
version of the novel which had its most important twenty first chapter removed.
The final chapter, in a structure set by Burgess to correspond with the
established number of years in a young life, is one of redemption and change
for Alex and seems to be restored in this interpretation.
in the twenty first century the reprobates in this theatrical incarnation
appear more punk hipster chic than truly dangerous theatrical archetypes. Even the
once shocking violence while still disturbing in a live setting seems to be
tame by the standards our current society has become all too familiar with as
Spencer-Jones’s all-encompassing directing style here is predicated on faster,
bigger, louder, and more grotesque. This lack of finesse results in a very loud
one note presentation. The complex jabberwocky like poetry of language that
marks Burgess’s work gets lost as it blows passed the ear. The humor in this
intended satire becomes so broad that it only registers in the lowest common
denominators. The ensemble is forced into over modulation and with everything
playing at level eleven on the amp there’s no place to go but down, and down
while refreshing when it does make a rare appearance, reads as weakness here.
theatre exists in the realm of disconcerting alienation. Actors playing
multiple roles to blur the lines between protagonists and antagonists. Focused
specific lighting forces the eye to see only what is meant to be seen. Abstract
scenery deconstructs the normal. The clash of modern and classical music
further confuses the senses. All these tricks are on display here, and while
they are successful individually they fail to coalesce and deliver a whole.
Bertolt Brecht once said that art is not a mirror with which to reflect reality
but a hammer with which to shape it. A hammer would have been useful here
instead of the unwieldy use of an axe.
West 50th Street
25 – Jan 6, 2018