Depression, suicide, sex, abortion. Growing up sucks.
The Castleton Theater Arts department’s production of “Spring Awakening” by Steven Sater, March 18-22 in Casella Theater, was unlike any other show I’ve seen, as it combined these challenging issues with youthful rock music.
The subject matter would probably land it an R or NC-17 rating in box offices, but this performance was a must-see due to the cast and crew’s outstanding execution of such a complex show.
While the plot was heavy and emotional, the show had an upbeat feel because of the music. The live band, directed by professor Paul Kafer, and comprised mostly of Castleton students, was seated upstage of the acting.
At times, the guitar solos, impressive vocals and light design made the show feel more like a rock concert than a college musical.
Most of the musical numbers are the thoughts going on in the characters’ heads, while the rest of the show is the external plot.
Besides the powerful music, the choreography was really what made the audience understand the chaos of the mind. The actors threw themselves around the stage in aggressive numbers, yet moved in almost yoga-like poses during somber, serious scenes.
One thing that no one can dispute is that Castleton students are talented. The show opens powerfully with Jordan Griffiths, as Wendla, singing solo. That girl can sing.
Other members of the cast proved their vocal abilies as well as acting abilities throughout the performance, including Nick Marshall as the male lead, Melchior.
The actors did a phenomenal job telling the stories of the characters in a mature and honest way.
Although the show has a fun package, there’s no denying these subjects are serious. From a same-sex kiss between Ernst and Hanschen, played by Dalton-Jesse Cummins and Eric Monzel, to the character Martha played by Haley Ryan, who is abused by her father. This show is as real as it gets.
The audience reacted maturely, but there were times that I found myself snickering, not out of humor, but because I felt uncomfortable. There was one scene where Wendla is asking Melchior to hit her and he refuses. Once he does strike her, however, it gets violent. I do not think the chuckling was because the audience found abuse funny, but because it was ironic and uncomfortable.
One actor whose energy really added to the show was Justin Gardner.
Gardner played the character of Moritz in a very natural way. His remarkable ability to play spastic, manic characters has been demonstrated in his role of Buddy in “The Diviners” during fall 2014, as well as his role in this show. His character commits suicide in what I thought to be the most emotional scene.
What was really fun about this show, despite the serious topics, was how it had a youthful spin. The song “Totally f&!*ed,” is such a perfect example of how a teenager would react to knowing he’s in trouble. Amidst the sadness, there was a lot of teenage reality involving sex, swearing and a “f— it” attitude.
It’s cliché, but I laughed, I cried, I smiled, and overall, it was an experience.