By Holli Harms
In Alexandra Spencer-Jones‘s intense and erotic production of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE we are catapulted into the world of Alex and his droogs and their insatiable appetite for everything violent. The opening scenes, much like the book, are a barrage of beatings, rapes, and murder. All marvelously choreographed to the beat of 80’s and 90’s music and looking much like a Madonna video with perfect male physiques posing, pumping, grinding and smashing.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, based on the critically-acclaimed book by Anthony Burgess, was immediately hailed as a masterpiece when it debuted in 1962. In it Burgess created a language merging Russian, English, made up words of rhyme and sound and reconfiguring them all into new speech. It is a sci-fi story set in a dystopian future where milk bars are the rage. Milk laced with drugs. It is the drugs that help to fuel the fire of destruction in the fifteen year old Alex (Jonno Davies making his New York debut with death defying intensity) and his friends. When he goes too far and breaks into an old woman’s home and rapes and beats her leading to her ultimate death, Alex’s droogs turn on their haughty leader beating him and leaving him for the police. He is taken into custody and sentenced to prison. There Alex is reduced to a number 6655321. The prison life is much the same as 6655321’s life outside of prison with beatings and rapes at the hands of both inmates and merciless guards. He is two years incarcerated when he kills a fellow convict and is then given the opportunity to be the first candidate for an experimental treatment called Ludovico’s Technique. It will, he is told, make him a decent and upstanding citizen in a mere two weeks. Two weeks and he is out of jail. Alex, of course, agrees to be the guinea pig.
The treatment is a form of brainwashing where Alex is forced to watch images from concentration camps, and other horrors that man inflicts on man while he is injected with drugs that cause severe nausea and headaches. Throughout this barrage of images his beloved Beethoven plays in the background. At the end of the two weeks Alex is unable to continue his violent ways. Any violence from him will trigger the nausea and headaches. And the same goes for any time he hears Beethoven. No longer a menace to society Alex is released from jail. What he quickly discovers is that this society of violence is now a menace to him. Incapable of defending himself he is now the one marked for trouncing. In an attempt to escape a life where he has become permanent prey, he chooses suicide by jumping out of a building. He survives his jump and miraculously rediscovers his appetite for destruction. However, now he is 18 and with free-will restored he chooses to become a responsible member of life, declaring his violent episodes were nothing but youth.
This all happens in “race against the clock” speed. Packing the story into 90 minutes on an intimate stage with an ensemble of excellent actors playing multiple characters – men and women. The play, as did the book, is making a comment on our tendency towards violence, and we watch the violence happening on stage at times feeling like we are rubbernecking a car accident causing our own internal traffic jam.
Not only is the cast made up of excellent actors, but their physical bodies are ripped and cut unbelievably. The cult of the body is also on display. Alex and his buddies love how they look. They are selfish, self-centered 15 year old boys. The costumes simple white and black t-shirts evoked in my mind the game of chess. A game who’s origins date back to 6th century India. It’s purpose to improve battle strategies. Battle. Alex and all of the characters who live in a Clockwork Orange are in a battle of survival. They are pawns and knights and Kings and Queens all fighting for their space on the board of life.
The site says not recommended for anyone under the age of 14, but I think it should be anyone under the age of 18. Truly, the beatings and rapes, though choreographed, are still extremely graphic and disturbing. I leave it to your discretion.
A Clockwork Orange – written by Anthony Burgess, directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones.
WITH: Jonno Davies, Matt Doyle, Sean Patrick Higgins, Brian Lee Huynh, Timothy Sekk , Aleksander Varadian Ashley Robinson , Jimmy Brooks, Misha Osherovich and Jordan Bondurant.
Lighting Design by James Baggaley, Sound Design by Emma Wilk and Costume Coordination by Jennifer A. Jacob
The play features original music composed by Heaven 17 frontman Glenn Gregory & Berenice Scott, with additional music by Davie Bowie, Placebo, Muse and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, among others.
New World Stages – Stage Four 340 West 50th Street New York, NY 10019
The 16-week Off-Broadway will run through Saturday, January 6, 2018. Go Here for schedule and ticket details. Running Time: 90 Minutes with no intermission and no late seating.
Gets Tickets at Telecharge