Make a fist as if you are about to knock on a door. Then air-knock once with your fist. You’ve just signed “yes” in American Sign Language (ASL). And I could use this sign until my knuckles were raw to praise this volcanic and emotionally draining revival of SPRING AWAKENING brilliantly conceived and directed by Michael Arden using singing and hearing impaired actors using sign language simultaneously with inspired choreography by Spencer Liff in the amazing DEAF WEST THEATRE production of this Steven Sater/Duncan Sheik landmark rock musical based on the once banned play by Frank Wedekind.
Germany 1891. The angst ridden teens – strictly separated – have one thing in common. Sex. Thinking about it. Dreaming about it. Not even knowing sometimes why they are thinking and dreaming about it. Only that it is forbidden. And taking it into one’s own hands to tragic consequences for some.
A young girl Wendla (Sandra Mae Frank/voice of Wendla – Katie Boeck) is blossoming into womanhood without an explanation from her mother (Camryn Manheim – who does her own signing) – thinking that a stork still delivers babies. A mother who has her own designs on a young male pianist.
A not very excellent student – Moritz (Daniel N. Durant/voice of Moritz Alex Boniello) is under pressure from his father (Russell Harvard) to succeed at all costs. Being bullied into being the best.
Being gay is verboten. But makes for a lovely scene between Ernst (Joshua A. Castille/voice of Ernst – understudy Van Hughes for Daniel David Stewart) and Hanschen (Andy Mientus) who wastes no time is beating around the bush but takes life firmly into his own hand.
Shame. Guilt. Pain. Going to extreme lengths to feel something. Drugs. Frustration. Abortion. These teens are ready to explode. And they do. Rocking to “The Bitch of Living” “My Junk” “Touch Me” and a show stopping “Totally Fucked.” All songs expressing the inner feeling of the characters with a throbbing pulsating beat.
Some scenes are totally silent. With words projected above. Haunting and extremely moving.
Other standouts in this amazing ensemble are Patrick Page, Krysta Rodriguez, Alex Wyse, Treshelle Edmond and Marlee Matlin. But it is the group effort of all the actors that make SPRING AWAKENING a resounding success.
See it. Yes, see it. Limited run through January 24th. Brooks Atkinson Theatre
Photos: Joan Marcus
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