Saturday, November 8, 2014

Punk Rock *

When I saw two previous plays by Simon Stephens (Harper Regan [] and Bluebird [}) at the Atlantic Theater, I thought his work was moderately interesting. When I saw his adaptation for the stage of Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time [], I thought his work was brilliant. Therefore, I was looking forward to seeing the New York premiere of this 2009 drama, which received almost unanimous raves from the London critics. To say I was keenly disappointed with this MCC production would be a major understatement. Those who wish to avoid spoilers should stop reading here. One London critic described it as The History Boys meets Columbine, a comparison that is an insult to the former. Both plays are about the stress of English public (i.e. private) school students preparing for their A-levels, but all resemblance ends there. The teenagers in this play are all stereotypes: Bennett (Will Pullen), the bully; Cissy (Lilly Englert), his compliant girlfriend; Tanya (Annie Funke), overweight and usually overlooked; Chadwick (Noah Robbins), the bullied nerd; Lilly (Colby Minifie), the new girl with a dark secret; William (Douglas Smith), the troubled boy with a casual relationship to the truth who wants to date her; and Nicholas (Pico Alexander), the handsome jock that she prefers. The author puts them together in a pressure cooker and we wait to see who will explode. The final scene introduces the lone adult character, Dr. Harvey, played by David Greenspan, who, for once, manages to avoid his usual excesses. In a country where school shootings were not almost weekly occurrences, perhaps the play seemed more profound. For me it seemed merely extremely unpleasant and tedious. I will grant that the young cast is very good. The dialect coach Stephen Gabis got excellent results from them. Director Trip Cullman has not helped the play by tarting it up with the actors running around in animal masks between scenes. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes; no intermission (wise decision).

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