By Jessica Kennedy
Spring Awakening opened this past Thursday, January 17th at the newly renovated and historic Argyle Theatre in Babylon Village. Directed by Matthew Earnest, this controversial and captivating night of theater will challenge, provoke, and inspire you!
The story behind this show is emotive and intense. Based on the play by German dramatist Frank Wedekind, and first written in the early 1890’s, it is a thinly veiled social critique of sexual oppression during the writer’s time. The storyline follows a number of characters as they struggle through the myriad side effects of repressing one’s sexuality. The play opens with Wendla, played by the captivating and moving Corrie Farbstein, as she desperately sings “Mama Who Bore Me”- a diatribe against her own ignorance, and the mother who forces it upon her. Although she begs for knowledge and understanding of the ways of love, her mother misguidedly “protects” her from the truth- a mistake which costs Wendla dearly. We also meet childhood friends Melchior and Moritz (the uber talented Alex Joseph Grayson and David Thomas Cronin) who face their own struggles with coming to terms with a society in which they cannot fit. Cronin impressively embodies the character of Moritz, a young man who is plagued by uncomfortable dreams that he cannot understand. These dreams serve to drive an already frazzled and fragile Moritz to extremes, as seen in his haunting renditions of “Don’t Do Sadness” and “Those You’ve Known.” Melchior is also under fire, but for very different reasons; he senses the injustice of his lot in life, and the hypocrisy of those who enforce it. Grayson commands the stage as Melchior when he battles to keep those he loves close to him and reject those who would force him to stay silent. Songs such as “The Word of Your Body” and “Totally F***ed” run the emotional gamut, and showcase the range of vocal talent for Grayson.
This show packs an emotional punch, and the hits don’t stop coming. It tackles sex and sexuality with some dramatic highs and lows- we watch young love blossom in more tender scenes, and we witness depravity and darkness when the storyline touches upon abuse and incest in “The Dark I Know Well.” There are many moments which are honestly uncomfortable to watch, but not for the reasons you may think. It is not the coarse language or suggestive movements of the actors which make the audience squirm (well, maybe a little); it is the sadness and shame these characters bear when all they want is to love and be loved.
The controversy surrounding this play is long standing and well known- it actually precedes the play itself, as although the play was written in 1890 (or 91), it wasn’t considered for its first performance until 1906! Nevertheless, this play’s message is strong and arguably still very timely. So if you like your theater experience to be entertaining and evocative, then come to the Argyle Theatre by February 24th and check out Spring Awakening- you won’t be disappointed!