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Review: A CLOCKWORK ORANGE Takes Center Stage at Jobsite Theater

Stunning stage adaptation lends closer to Burgess's novel than Kubrick film.

Review: A CLOCKWORK ORANGE Takes Center Stage at Jobsite Theater

"Neither the Church nor the State has taught us how to create..."- Alex

"Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has

the good imposed upon him?" - Chaplain


In 1962 English author Anthony Burgess published the Dystopian-Black Comedy novel entitled A Clockwork Orange. The novel itself was partially written in a Russian-influence argot called "Nadsat" which in a Russian suffix took on its namesake for the equivalent of "TEEN" in English. In 2005 the novel was included by Time Magazine in a list as one of the 100 best English Language novels of the 20th Century. The novel is divided into three parts: Alex's World, Ludovico Technique, and After Prison, and each of the novel's three parts contained only 7 chapters. 7 x 3= 21 which was an intentional nod to the age of 21 which is considered a milestone in adult maturation.

Prior to the year 1986, US copies omitted the 21st chapter. In doing so, author Anthony Burgess intended the novel to end on a Darker Note. Kubrick's film which was released in 1971 insisted that the 21st chapter of the novel was unconvincing and inconsistent with the storyline, and therefore for his purposes, and because he wrote the screenplay prior to reading the updated novel, Kubrick omitted anything from the 21st chapter in his film. Fans of the English novel chastised the film for the omission of this source material.

The phrase "...as queer as a Clockwork Orange..." often considered Cockney slang was overheard in a pub in London in 1947 by Burgess and therefore helmed the title for his novel. The idea that man was, "just a toy to be wound-up by either God, the Devil, or the State," was high influence on the novel in Burgess eyes, and helped drive Alex's arch in the story. Many an adaptation has been done over the years, from stage adaptations, to the 1965 film Vinyl by Andy Warhol which was said to be an adaptation on the Burgess's text.

On the flip side of things, Stanley Kubrick directed a film adaptation of Burgess's novel that was released in 1971 following Critical Acclaim. Stanley Kubrick whom at the time was at the helm of a Napoleon Bonaparte epic sparked the idea of a screenplay based on Anthony Burgess's novel, after his wife gave him a copy following her reading of the material. Immediately setting Napoleon aside Kubrick began work on A Clockwork Orange. Starring Malcolm McDowell as Alex the film opened to polarizing reviews for its depiction of controversial violence of a graphic nature and sexually explicit scenes. The film further garnished even more criticism when it inspired copycat acts of violence amongst the youth. Kubrick's film was banned in several countries following its release. Though it received an X-Rating in the US following its release, it obtained an R-Rating in 1972 after Kubrick proceeded to remove 30 seconds of sexually-explicit footage. The film received 4 nominations at the 44th Academy Awards, and in 2020 was placed on the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. Based on a running lecture on free will, the omission of the final chapter pushed A Clockwork Orange into Cult Status. A depiction of Communist Society and Russian Culture, the film leaned itself more to showing a failed Socialist society on the brink of Authoritarianism. A Cult-Classic nonetheless, but the question remains was it done for mere shock-value or political commentary?

On March 3, 2022, an exciting event happened. A Clockwork Orange: A Play with Music entered its final preview prior to Opening Night. The most exciting thing was not only the debut of this stunningly brilliant play but also the fact that Jobsite Theater, Resident Theatre Company at the Straz Center stepped back into its hallowed home in front of a live audience for the first time in two years. It felt as if I was being wrapped in a warm blanket stepping into the Shimberg for the first time since the Novel COVID-19 Pandemic shuttered everything in its tracks.

Boasting a young cast some who have not been on-stage in nearly two years, Jobsite Theater and Director Dan Granke helmed a superb production. Stylistically beautiful, with something to acknowledge at every turn, this production is not for the faint at heart. Adapted from Burgess's novel more than the Kubrick film, and used a socially-political satire A Clockwork Orange: A Play with Music is exceptional. A 51-page script, turned into a 90-minute no-intermission, no holds barred free for all this is Jobsite as it was meant to be. Raw, emotional, and powerful statement pushed to the edge, Jobsite does what it does best.

Donovan Whitney leads this bunch of misfits and droogs as Alex our protagonist and narrator of the story. He is exceptional from start to finish, and 100% grounded in every moment to moment. To steal your eyes away, would be to miss a deluge of information. His Alex is tactical, and pragmatic, while at the same time strong, and stoic in every beat. He's no holds barred when he needs to be and reserved in the best of moments. He should be extremely proud of his presence here for it left me reeling even hours after. Boasting an incredibly strong ensemble featuring William Alejandro Barbra, Jada Canty, Kiara Flowers, Amanda Heisey, Haley Janeda, Daniel Lennox, Jr., Brianna McVaugh, Omen Thomas Sade, and Jared Sellick this cast is formidable and exquisite from top to bottom.

Best in show goes to Omen Thomas Sade as Dim, Prisoner, Comedian, et al. Like the Emcee in Cabaret he is alluring and exceptionally devious and you don't want to miss a single beat. Every time he steps on the stage, albeit sometimes brief, you cannot help but watch his every move. An exceptional turn for this actor and one who will be on my radar for future performances.

"What's it going to be then, eh?

What's it going to be then, eh?

Tolchocking, dratsing and kicks in the yarblockos,

Thumps on the gulliver, fists in the plott.

Gromky great shooms to the bratchified millicent,

Viddy the krovvy pour out of his rot.

Ptitsas and cheenas and starry babushkas

-A crack in the kishkas real horrorshow hot.

Give it to them whether they want it or not." -Droogs

Technically stunning Dan Granke and crew produced a piece de resistance here. Brian Smallheer's set is functional and clean. It works for the telling of the world in which our Droog's story exists. The marvelous and almost clinical white of the tile gives it a mental institution vibe and it's stunning to uphold. Some moving set pieces and a rolling restraint chair lend well to the moment-to-moment in the story. Katrina Stevenson's costumes are stunning. An interesting juxtaposition from the clinically satirical white used in the film. The black is a great contrast to the white tile and allows the characters more depth in their arcs. My favorite thing with the costumes has to be the stunning art created on the leather jackets. This could be displayed on a runway, or in any fashion house. I would 100% wear these in a second. The use of color is exquisite here, and Katrina should be commended for her exceptional work at bringing these characters to life. The fight choreography works on every level and is believable in every instance. Jo Averill-Snell's lighting design is perfect for the world in which the Droogs cohabitate. Jeremy Douglass's unique sound design blends the eerie with the formidable, and the grotesque with the beautiful, rounding out a conceptually exquisite world.

Dan Granke puts it best in their Director's note by saying, "In America, at this point, we also need to ask some serious questions about which bodies get to be violent, and when, and to ask why something is only appropriate when put to the uses of the state or other ideological institutions yet is to be shunned in our nature. In so many ways in the world of the play, Alex is failed by and is used by everyone and everything from his family, to the government, to the "freedom fighters" planning to save him. The ensemble is relatively young and represents a cross-section of us. Seeing them gather to tell a story about old institutions failing them is something that should have resonance today..." As Director, Dan Granke took a story founded in different viewpoints and made it cohesive to the world in which we currently live, and for that, I commend them on this effort.

If a story grounded in Cultural Significance is something you seek, if a story bearing witness to a world ever so much evolving is what you need, then look no further than A Clockwork Orange: A Play with Music. I will behoove you not to expect an adaptation of the Kubrick film, for this is the novel adaptation with an ending you have to see to believe! Being produced by the exceptional ensemble of Jobsite Theater, this FINAL PREVIEW was an exceptional feast for the eyes and mind. The play must close March 27th, so hurry to strazcenter.org, or jobsitetheater.org for tickets to this exceptionally stunning, and relevant spectacle. Alex and his Droogs are waiting for your arrival... what are you waiting for?

"A man who cannot choose ceases to be a man..."- Chaplain

"Man is a fruit, a creature of juice, color, and perfume. They tear out his piths and turn him into a robot. They will try to do it to us all. But you, poor victim, shall be a witness against them." - Alexander

Photo Credit: Pritchard Photography



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