BY GEORGE J. DACRE
Set in Provincial Germany in 1891, “Spring Awakening” tells the story of young men and women growing up and experiencing and learning all about sex and life and the struggles some have with that learning experience.
The production is graphic and is recomended for mature audiences as it includes simulated intercourse between the lead actors, masturbation, abortion, suicide, homosexuality and death. It is told with great music written by Duncan Sheik and a compelling book and lyrics by Steven Sater.
It’s performed by a great array of young talent backed up by a fantastic orchestra. The Elmwood Players have gone all out on this production including a partially squared off seating arrangement that brings the play action close to the audience. It drew a younger audience than is usual at Elmwood and their reaction to the storyline was enthusiastic.
Directed by Claudia Stefany, “Spring Awakening” action never stops from the opening number “Mama Who Bore Me,” with lead actress Emma Ruck as Wendla, and a reprise with the Girls Ilse (Alyxx Weishaar), Anna (Ashley Cohen), Thea (Audrey Patricola), and Martha (Olivia Didrichsen) to the closer “Purple Summer,” a song of hope that emerges despite all the travails the young students experience as they learn about sex and love and their consequences.
The times in 1891 were different and discussion between parents and children were rare and reluctantly given and as director Claudia Steffany points out in notes in the Playbill, even nowadays there may be limited discussion sex and llfe between parents and children. Stefany hopes that “Spring Awakening” opens up a dialogue between generations regarding not only sex but a myriad of topics.
The production certainly opens up the minds of theatergoers with renditions of “All That’s Known,” by lead actor T.J. Larke as Melchior, “The Bitch Of Living,” “My Junk,” “Touch Me,” “The Word of Your Body,” “The Dark I Know Well,” and “Then There Were None” with Moritz and the Boys and “I Believe.” And that’s only the first act.
Act Two has Melchior and Wendla, the girls and the boys doing “The Guilty Ones.” The lead actors have simulated intercourse on stage in the first act.
And then there comes “Don’t Do Sadness,” “Blue Wind,” “Left Behind,” “Totally F…..d,” “The Word Of Your Body,” “Whispering,” “Those You’ve Known” and “Purple Summer.” All of this great music, performed expertly by the cast, plus the dialogue, sums up the story of “Spring Awakening” and makes for a very provocative and interesting evening of community theatre.
I think it’s one of the best productions Elmwood has done recently and I rate it Three Stars Of Four!!!
It plays weekends through December 15. Tickets at 845-353-1313 or elmwoodplayhouse.com.