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A CurtainUp Review
A Clockwork Orange
As the year opened, the Godlight Theater Company was scheduled to perform 1984 when a last minute squabble over rights led to a cancellation of the production. On short notice then, the ensemble elected to produce A Clockwork Orange since they had mounted it back in the fall of 2002. With a scant seven days rehearsal, director Joe Tantalo has fashioned a black-hearted romp at Theater C (the black box theater of 59E59), whose intimacy commutes mere audience voyeurism to the act of witnessing.
With schoolyard massacres and "wilding" a matter of public record, Clockwork seems to have even greater resonance forty years after publication. Alex is a fifteen-year-old "droog" today we might call him a "gangsta" or simply a youth at risk. As the play opens he and his cohorts are lapping it up (literally) at Korova Milk bar where a latte is laced with pharmaceuticals, appetizers to their evenings ultraviolence.
Thats right ultraviolence.
In envisioning this future Burgess invented a language fusing elements of Russian, British slang, and even Shakespearean iambic pentameter. Alexs embrace of his lingua franca demonstrates his dynamism and inability to conform. Only after a rape/assault becomes homicide is his immorality brought to bear. The penal system working here in collusion with medical science deems him ideal for social conditioning an aversion therapy called the Ludovico Treatment. This riff on Pavlov channels Alexs murderous impulses making any thoughts a circuit and redirecting them internally. The success is so total that he cannot even listen to his beloved Beethoven without spasming.
While director Tantalo uses both sight and sound to full effect his scenes of mayhem are almost balletic while his usage of eerie synthesized fugues recalls the Wendy Carlos contributions to the Kubrick soundtrack the play demands an intimidating charisma in its Alex. While Randy Falcon has been promoted by droog Peter to lead Alex between the 2002 production and the current one and perhaps I was holding him to the impossibly high standard of Malcolm McDowell his Alex didnt make me surrender my wallet or squirm in my seat. And yet I must confess to having enjoyed eavesdropping on the depravity whether the carousing of the droogies or the governments attempts at erasure.
That said, the productions portrayal of nihilism is stirring. The cast ably handles the too-clever-by-half linguistic coinages (a glossary is helpful), raising questions about the nature of punitive versus so-called rehabilitative strategies. And as we prepare to confirm Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General he who referred to the Geneva Convention as "quaint" these questions of citizenship and torture are less and less theoretical.
Ironically, both the film adaptation by auteur Stanley Kubrick and the American edition of the Burgess novel ended on a more somber note where Alexs conditioning is rescinded as political tides turn leaving the world at his (or lack thereof) mercy. In this production, with the final chapter re-attached, Alex has grown up and at 20, he lades his childishly violent past away.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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