It’s no secret that Brown students are brilliant. Just look at Duncan Sheik ’92, the songwriter behind the hit musical, Spring Awakening. This weekend, his work once again returns to his old stomping grounds as Shakespeare on the Green moves inside and presents its own rendition of the renowned show, directed by Jenn Maley ’16.
The entire production is concise and unwaveringly honest. From the simple costumes, designed by Dylan Platt ’15 and Estée Feldman ’18, to the stark set, created by Rebecca Balton ’15, the physical aspects of the show further accentuate the rawness and darkness of the heavy topics that the script explores. Additionally, the intimate environment of the Rites and Reasons Theatre forces the audience to face the cast as they confront such intense topics as suicide and sexual assault. And, of course, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the pit, directed by Nick Healy ’17, who do a wonderful job of capturing the magic of Sheik’s phenomenal score.
The cast does an excellent job of portraying the confusion and angst that so accurately capture adolescence. From Frankie Troncoso ’16, whose twitchy idiosyncrasies breathe life into Moritz Stiefel, to Amelia Scaramucci ’17, whose benevolent ingenuousness perfectly characterizes the ignorant Wendla Bergmann, the cast portrays the characters in a way that draws empathy and sympathy from the audience. Melchior Gabor’s verve and intelligence are captured by Conor Sweeney ’18, while Anna (fellow BlogDH writer Naiyah Ambros ’17), Thea (Natalie Cutler ’16), and Martha (Emily Rudder ’17) bolster the innocence and kindness of the teenage girls. Meanwhile, Brendan George ’18 emphasizes Hanschen’s mischievous and sexual personality while Otto (Joe Van Wye ’15), Georg (Peter Bowden ’16), and Ernst (Jonathan West ’16) evoke many other stereotypes associated with the confusion that surrounds puberty and adolescence. Finally, the mysterious Ilse (Haley Schwartz ’17) lurks beyond the confines of the stage, gaining the audience’s sympathy from a distance. On the contrary, all of the adult characters are portrayed by two actors (Justin Harris ’15 and Hannah Margolin ’15), who expertly articulate the monotony and closed-mindedness of the older generation during the time in which the play is set. All in all, the cast allows for the audience to greatly empathize with the young protagonists and scorn the adult villains.
The show, which begins with an almost-delightfully angsty rock-musical feel, moves into deeper and darker waters as time progresses and the protagonists, who the audience has come to enjoy and identify with, begin to butt heads with their hyper-conservative parents. Soon, the audience watches with terror as the lives of almost every single hero are shattered by societal norms and villainous elders. With the talented cast, bare set, and simple lighting effects (designed by Liz Oakley ’16), the musical’s tragic turns are amplified and felt deeply and sincerely by every single audience member. All of a sudden, what was once a light-hearted, friendly musical is transformed into a brutally honest exploration of topics as intense as sexual assault, child abuse, and suicide. By the end, the viewer is left in awe by all that has transpired and the fact that, despite the tragedy, there is still hope for the future.
All in all, this production of Spring Awakening does not disappoint. The magic of the musical is preserved and amplified by the creative team and cast’s subtle alterations and additions. From the incredible cast and orchestra to the powerful set design, Shakespeare on the Green has created something truly powerful.
So, check out Spring Awakening this weekend at the Rites and Reason Theatre (located inside the Department of Africana Studies at 155 Angell Street). The musical will be playing Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.! Also, Duncan Sheik ’92, composer of the musical, will be having a talkback after the 7:30 p.m. show on Saturday. While all pre-sale tickets have been sold, there will still be a handful available at the door beginning an hour before each show. (Tickets are free, by the way.)
Image via Jake Kuhn ’17 and Danielle Perelman ’17.