BWW Review: AMERICAN IDIOT at New Stage Theatreworks
New Stage Theatreworks' American Idiot is an Energy Drink of a Show
Watching New Stage Theatreworks' production of American Idiot is the equivalent of a theatrical energy drink. So much energy, so much angst, so much intensity.
The three men at the center of this rock opera find themselves at loose ends, young adult males in the mid-2000s short on plans and devoid of ambition. Tunny (Santos Sanchez) finds his path in the military. Johnny (Aron Wesolowski) escapes suburbia but finds himself in a drug-fueled trap. Will (Jacob Williams) is the only one of the trio to stay in the suburbs, anchored by the pregnancy of his girlfriend.
The set brings the messy, grungy life of the characters' times to life, with Green Day song titles highlighted on newspaper-lined walls. Creative use of moving scaffolding and the all-important 7-Eleven store complete the look.
Although the show's pounding music and decisive choreography dominate, the more balletic moments should not be discounted. Those moments are shorter; they bring a depth to the production as a whole and add variety to the 90 minutes of Green Day's music (and the story told by the show).
The ensemble, featuring choreography by Ashlee Benson, shapeshifts through a multitude of identities -- fellow punk rockers, patriotic supporters, underwear-clad backups and more. Clad in the clothes of the period, almost everything seems close to losing control, from hems to hairstyles.
As the three men's lives take their divergent routes, the audience is introduced to love interests, more casual flings and drug suppliers. Sometimes these are one and the same. Jillian Wesolowski as Whatsername makes a strong, compelling contribution to the cast, with assertive vocals.
For a show so steeped in apathy, the audience is drawn in as Johnny, Tunny and Will attempt to find their way.
Angel Coleman's St. Jimmy is among the most potent parts of the show, mingling driven rage and restlessness.
Anger is in no short supply when Johnny, Tunny, and Will can focus enough to channel their frustration at life's lack of answers. They want so badly to show how much they don't care that the audience gets wrapped up in wanting to unpry their fingers from the grip they hold on the ledge of apathy and help them find a safety net.
The women of American Idiot seem to vacillate between paying the price of shaking men out of indifferent self destruction and saying "forget it -- I'm moving on," as the audience sees Heather (Erin Williams) contemplate.
Moments like those shared between Tunny and The Extraordinary Girl (Kelly Stever Elliot) counterbalance all the throbbing, frenetic rock played by Invented Truths, the show's on-stage five-person band.
The time period and places occupied by the cast of American Idiot were not pretty. When ostensibly hope and opportunity lay right outside their doors, they often gave in to inertia (except for Tunny, whose military enlistment created a different path). The audience feels just as grungy ... and just as intensely invested.
This show, directed by Krystof Kage, captured the angst of the early 2000s but many of the Green Day lyrics it used (comprising all of the songs on the Band's American Idiot album) could have been written last week.
Everyone will figure out a way to join the post-show singalong.
For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.nstw.org/tickets/.
Photo Credit: Krystof Kage