Just caught this one – a little late in the run but worth mentioning since there is a final weekend.
Since the award-winning musical, Spring’s Awakening, is coming west in the fall, the Los Angeles Theater Ensemble boldly brings to the stage the original play which shocked, provoked, and enraged audiences when it was performed in 1890. The play dared to bring to light the consequences of depriving adolescents of sexual information and exposed the absolute ambitions of parents whose expectations often stifle and destroy their children.
This is turn-of-the-century Germany. And what Wedekind did was to bring to the shocked audience homosexuality, teen pregnancy, masturbation…he brashly displayed what was absolutely forbidden.
First of all, the staging. The protagonists are 14-year-old kids but played by adults, and the switch is effective. An adolescent begs her mother to explain the details of the sexual act. The mother refuses…you see the consequences. Boys test religious proscriptions and masturbate on stage. A family demands academic success and the loving son who fails…you see tragic results.
What Spring’s Awakening provokes is great after-theater-over-coffee argument. Compare the pros and cons of change. Look at the shift in attitude toward teen pregnancy in today’s Juno: it removes stigma but overlooks the consequences on a reality level. Or the religious imperatives toward masturbation which the boys try on stage (and today becomes the source of TV comedy) – the beating taken by the girl who wants to experience what it feels like to be beaten, and then touches the dark bruises and gets an almost sexual thrill…
You don’t have to look back 100 years to see the profound differences in attitudes toward adolescent sexuality. Just watch the Andy Hardy films of 50 years ago. Funny in today’s world…and yet…in gaining freedom, have we lost something?
The Los Angeles Theater Ensemble courageously takes chances, for instance, on this rather talky play with adult kids, yet they create an entertaining evening that leaves you with profound questions. I keep thinking of a song from a classic film taken from another stage play: Cabin in the Sky. The song is “Consequences.”
Spring’s Awakening presents absolutes and consequences. Well worth catching this last weekend and before it comes to L.A. as a musical.
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