BWW Review: Muscles and Choreographed Violence Overwhelm The Story of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
If director Alexandra Spencer-Jones' intention was to stage an erotic word ballet that finds beauty in the well-chiseled male form through highly-stylized acts of choreographed violence, then the latest offering at New Work Stages certainly fulfills that goal.
To be fair, the words are that of the novelist, who penned this adaptation in 1987. Having passed on six years later, he had nothing to do with Jones' production, which she created for her South London theatre company, Action To The Word, in 2009. It has been seen worldwide before the current American debut.
With bulging muscles and a sexy manner of confrontational maturity, there's no attempt to make British actor Jonno Davies resemble a 15-year-old; the age of the novel's protagonist, Alex deLarge , who, in a futuristic London, drinks drug-laced milk with his fellow "Droogs," a brutal gang of angry youths who speak in a Russian-laced form of English and randomly terrorize anyone unfortunate enough to encounter them.
When Alex is finally jailed, he seeks freedom by volunteering for an experimental therapy where he's injected with a nausea-inducing drug while having his eyes forced open in front of films showing acts of depraved violence. The soundtrack to the films just happens to be his beloved Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, so not only has he been conditioned to become physically ill at the thought of violence, but the same thing happens upon hearing "Ode To Joy."
The charismatic Davies admirably throws himself into the physically and emotionally demanding role and he is ably supported by an ensemble of Americans who double up on numerous characters, but Jones spends so much energy layering a complex soundscape (designed by Emma Wilk) and emphasizing erotic physicality that the 90-minute production limply trudges through its overwhelmed emotional dramatics.
Additionally, the play is performed by an all-male cast, perhaps because the sight of these muscular men raping and otherwise assaulting Burgess' women characters might repulse the audience enough to work against Jones' display of violent male beauty. Having a unique vision is great, but not when it's done at the expense of the text.