Spring Awakening, Caught with its Pants Down.
By Ben Ryland

The original 1890’s play, Spring Awakening, by Frank Wedekind (translation: Jonathan Franzen) is currently being performed by the Mobtown Players at Clipper Mill. This is the original work that the recent award-winning musical was based on. I have seen neither before and what I have seen from the musical and its score was not that impressive. Staging can be everything but since the show is not still running after only a couple of years (compared to RENT) I am still left wondering about its youthful appeal.

Maybe it is merely the sexually explicit scenes of masturbation and circle jerks, or for the most depraved among, us the young teen age rape sequence. God help me to understand but I just don’t get it. And I was a teenager once.

Having school boys with Rhodes Scholar vocabularies, the repressed mentality of the adults and an unexplained not of this earth ringer thrown in at the finale was lost on me. The term Moral Order is thrown about by all concerned in this German based story which is an unintentional (?) precursor of the atrocities of the early to middle last century of hatred and violence that was demonstrated by the same factions.

If Spring Awakening is supposed to be a primer on budding adolescent merging sexuality we are all in trouble and the tragedies of last century becomes more comprehensible from start to finish. Unfortunately the popularity of the musical with young people once again demonstrates we have once again learned nothing from the lessons of the past.

Moritz and Melchior are best friends in an expensive prep school along with a large cast of equally underachieving students. They speak in pompous prose in a style that in addition to being completely unrealistic is misleading disguised as sophisticated. They are just a bunch horny school boys trying to justify their actions much like the protagonists of Lindsay Anderson’s cult favorite film of the 1960’s- ‘if…’ So similar in fact that the resultant death and destruction are in much the same vein if not in exact execution.

You are aware that this is a heavy, edgy show by oblivious hints. With minimal staging, the actors speaking often in the dark, and the pretentious staging- Damn it you must know this is an important work. So important that is has been totally forgotten from the classical cannon of drama until the musical appeared. What can be more pretentious than that? Oh yes, I know: it was banned from production after being written for many years so it has to be ground breaking and truthfully provocative!

Crap…..

Using actors from the Carver High School acting program makes it even more so since most adults in the audience seemed to be shocked at what these budding adults, just past puberty, were portraying onstage. The adult’s response was almost like being caught by a coworker at a porno theatre in the 70’s by attending this show. The actors friends in the audience even tittered at many of the sexual high-jinks mimed onstage much like Jack McFarland’s reactions (in televisions ‘Will and Grace’) whenever someone innocently mentions balls or heinous.

Josh Kemper is intense as Melchior and is an actor to watch in the future. His counterpart Chris Magorian as Moritz is less effective in his pivotal role rushing through his incomprehensible dialog-at a break neck speed. As he continually questions the metaphysical qualities in life and customs he looses the audience because of his inarticulation. The splendid Melanie Glickman as Wendla fulfills her role of the sexually uninformed female but trying to keep up with the boy’s part of the sexual equation. Women are beaten, and expect it in this society so sexual and emotion repression can only manifest its worse in them. Wendla’s mother even allows a butcher to botch an abortion that kills her raped 14 year old daughter.

What seems to be the inspiration of the oft-mentioned conceptual visionary of this production, the late Terry Long, is that old dramatic standby- MORE is less. Done in a more chamber style staging this Spring Awakening might be more humanistic and approachable. At a running time of three hours and 15 minutes is very similar to Les Miz in performance but without the laughs.

Spring Awakening – Mobtown Players at Clipper Mill
This Friday and Saturday
http://www.mobtownplayers.com

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