Saturday, September 29, 2018

Review of Blank Theatre's Spring Awakening

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Spring Awakening. The book and lyrics were by Steven Sater and the music was by Duncan Sheik. It was based on the play by Frank Wedekind. It was directed by Danny Kapinos. The music director was Tyler Miles and the choreographer was Britta Lynn Schlicht. It was about a town in 19th-century Germany and the teenagers that live there and how they relate to each other, their parents, and teachers. It is about how little they have been told about their bodies and sexuality and how society treats them. I think this is a really interesting show to see in a small space because the movement is so big and the play is so relationship-oriented that being so up close with the performers makes the audience feel even more connected to the show. There was a lot of figurative impact, but because of the small space sometimes it also felt like there could be a literal one as well. That keeps you on your toes, which I think the show wants from you, because that is how all the characters feel in the play--like they are always worried about what could happen next and how they might be hurt.

The main topic in this show is sexuality, and the show has many views on it. It shows many different ways that sexuality filters into these teenagers' lives. Almost everyone in this show has some ounce of guilt over how they feel because of what their parents and society have taught them. Hanschen (Jonah Cochin when I saw it, usually Chase Heinemann) and Ernst (Adam Ross Brody) feel guilty about being gay. Wendla (Haley Bolithon) and Melchior (Chase Heinemann when I saw it, usually Jeremiah Alsop) feel guilty about connecting and enjoying being intimate with each other. Moritz (Sam Shankman) feels guilty about even knowing what sex is, basically. I feel like everyone has a sense that they shouldn't have to feel guilty, but because that is what they have been taught their entire lives, that is what they feel like they have to feel. Even though the show is implying you shouldn't feel guilty, it still shows the consequences that having sex at a young age can have. There are also many instances in which people should feel guilty, not about appropriate hormones, but about inappropriate actions like are talked about in "The Dark I Know Well" by Martha (Cari Meixner) and Ilse (Claire Latourette).

"Totally Fucked" is a totally relatable panic song about how Melchior is being accused of writing an essay on sex that he gave to his friend Moritz who was very oblivious about what sex actually was. It is a surprisingly upbeat song for how terrible the situation is. Everyone comes out on stage dancing in a way that seems almost joyful but still seems angry. I love this song because it is taking a different view on something everyone fears and kind of turning it into something you shouldn't fear because messing up and getting into trouble is inevitable and everyone is rejoicing in the stupidity of it all. The reprise of "Mama Who Bore Me" seems to have a similar tone, but instead of being focused on the cruelty of the adults around them, it is focusing on the unnecessary protections from the world that adults think teenagers need. It is also a direct segue out of a scene where Wendla's mother (Lisa Savegnago) has tried her best to get out of having "the talk" with Wendla. The first version of the song sounds very loving and slow, but then the same lyrics get redone as a more frustrated, faster song about being sheltered from things you should be able to know.

The song "Those You've Known" is about how the people you've lost in your life are not really lost. I think the thing that got me is that most of the other songs are about anger and adolescence, and in this song you see them not being teenagers. You see them making adult, reasonable decisions and thinking about things in mature ways. They are still vulnerable, and the thing that really got me in the song was the waver in Melchior's voice when he is singing the song. Often in musicals, people are sad but that just makes them belt out their emotions instead of singing like a person who is actually in pain would sing. I think that Melchior seeing his friends who didn't get to fully grow up shows him that he needs to grow up and that just because things are hard he shouldn't quit. Because he has an opportunity that his friends didn't have, to grow up, he needs to utilize it.

People who would like this show are people who like musicals about sexuality and adolescence, joyful mistakes, and learning how to grow up. It is beautifully complex, has heart-wrenching songs, and the characters are portrayed wonderfully. I really liked it.

Photos: Nick McKenzie

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