A Clockwork Orange: Re-Sexing the Orange

Local Arts Reviews

A Clockwork Orange: Re-Sexing the Orange

John Henry Faulk Living Theatre, through May 13

British author Anthony Burgess wrote a musical, for-the-stage version of A Clockwork Orange, his futuristic parable of ultraviolence? Wonders, never ceasing. It's more likely that you know of, and have seen, Russ Meyers' Faster, Pussycat -- Kill! Kill! And if you have seen Faster, Pussycat, and liked it, you're more likely to enjoy the Fabulous and Ridiculous Theatre production of Burgess' show-tuned fable of adolescent hooliganism and its resolution. Because the similarities, when they hit, are like a tolchok right in the aesthetic yarbles.

But as similarities often invite comparison, they might also bring a whiff of disappointment.

Director AnnaCatherine Rutledge has chosen to transgender Alex and the droogs as young women, as grrl delinquents wreaking their teen havoc against the fabric of urban society. Which chromosomal switching is, at the least, a fine excuse to outfit those ptitsas in all manner of black leather and PVC gear from local S&Mporium Forbidden Fruit. This gives the production a sort of instant VORTEX cachet, and it's real, um, horrorshow.

Or, anyway, a rocky picture of horrorshow. Sonya Tsuchigane plays our old droogie Alex, and she has the role down as tough as some nails ... but nails lacking a certain depth if not a decibel-level, and not quite as tough as even the cuticles of Tura Satana. The other droogs, too, have some basic sneers and postures going but fall short of the ultra-vixen standards necessary to pull this raskazz into belief-suspending terrorism. And even -- or maybe especially -- in a musical where the recurrent nadsat anthem calls to mind nothing so much as the rhymes of old Teddy-boy Geisel, you need to be able to worry, briefly, that these characters are going to bust off the stage on a moment's whim and kick your ass.

"Gentlemen beware," says the Director's Note in the program book, "for upon you is the dawn of the new woman, reborn. Unafraid, unabashed, bold, blatant, brazen, and free of the restrictions that have been shackled to us for too long." Oookay. And this renaissance is epitomized by Alex and her crowd, because, hey-hey, they were originally written as boys? As opposed to any number of violent Gang Girls and Marihuana Harlots lurking on the garish covers and amongst the now-yellowed pages of Dell paperbacks from the 1950s? As opposed to any pussycat that faster kills, kills?

Gender, shmender. The Clockwork Orange movie, and the book, and this musical, are not about any shreds of power and barrier-breaking abilities cannily hidden within the wilding choreography of juvie ultraviolence. Burgess even has his Alex speak the story's point distinctly in an end-of-show summation. And that is? Well, to paraphrase a different gang of musical and British rebels: The Kids Are Fucked Up.

The dawn of the new woman, reborn? I mean, seriously? Then we need to viddy a show about Hillary Clinton or Esther Dyson or Julie Doucet or Janet Reno -- now there's some zammechat devotchkas, there's your velvet gloves cast in iron, alright.

Still, it's a cool choice to produce this particular play. It takes a pretty big pair of ovaries to attempt a staged version of such a popular filmed story, and there's plenty of enthusiasm in the performance of it. The Beethoven keyboards by Justin Badgerow add a beautiful underscoring to the action and the transitions, there is much good singing, the costumes -- peekaboo PVC and otherwise -- by Mern work well as both fashion-spectacles and character-signifiers, and the show-stealing Clay Towery exudes a fiendish Herbert Lom/Oliver Reed kind of vibe in his dual roles of Deltoid and Dr. Brodsky.

So, if you're an ardent Clockwork fan, will you be more pleased or more disappointed with this offering? Appy polly loggies, droog: Bog only knows.

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a clockwork orange, fabulous and ridiculous theatre, anthony burgess, annacatherine rutledge, sonya tsuchigane, mern, clay towery

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