I have actually written two reviews of Spring Awakening over the past year. The first was of the professional touring company’s musical version. The second was of a campus production of the straight play at Stony Brook University. Here is the original review at SB Independent, and below is the second review, which was originally published (like my other stories) at sbpress.com
Last spring, the professional touring production of the musical theater version of Spring Awakening came to the Staller Center Main Stage. This spring, Stony Brook undergraduate students put on a version of the play in the Staller Center basement, in what is known as the Cabaret Theatre, from March 9 to 11.
Frank Wedekind first wrote Spring Awakening without songs. Elizabeth Sager translated the play from the original German and worked with a number of undergraduates to produce a new version.
The story is about a group of 14-year-old children in Germany in the late 1800s. They are all vastly confused by the secrecy surrounding sexual relations and human reproduction. It is essentially a dramatic commentary on how teaching abstinence and ignorance can lead to very bad things. And in the play, bad things happen in droves.
The Cabaret performance was captivating. The drama was intense, but never overdone. Occasionally, it did seem to drag on—so that the tension was lost—but this was a minor issue.
Having seen the musical prior to the play version, I already knew the storyline, but I still wasn’t quite prepared for the impact of seeing it again. Scenes depicting such a loss of innocence, and suicide, were performed with taste and poise which I think even exceeded that of the musical version shown last year.
My favorite part was the innovative gender-bending Sager employed. Gender-bending is the act of using male and female roles interchangeably. It is similar to the common practice of males playing female roles in Shakespearean times, except that today females play male roles, as well.
The main male role, Melchior, was played by Caitlin Bartow. She played the part in a way that made gender unimportant, which, according to the director’s note in the program, was the goal.
Of course, not all roles were played by the opposite gender. The other lead male, Moritz, was played by Eric Michael Klouda, who did a phenomenal job portraying a young man bent on killing himself. The cast as a whole was very well-rounded.
The show was free, but donations were accepted for the Trevor Project, a hot-line for youth—particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender—who are contemplating suicide.