Anthony Burgess’ novel, “A Clockwork Orange,” springs to life in director John Bateman’s theater adaptation of the same name. It is a brilliant spectacle of violence, anger, bloodshed and a surge of emotions that surpasses those seen and felt in the film version by director Stanley Kubrick. Performed at the Roy Arias Stage 7 Stage Theatre by the Hubris Theatre Company, the play centers on teenage narrator, Alex — played by NYU Tisch alumnus Alex Tissiere — and his three friends. The supporting cast includes Steve Bono Jr. and Luke Wehner and Tisch alumnus Sam Finn Cutler.
In the show, the gang of teenagers rape, beat and kill several people without remorse. Alex, the main character, is eventually arrested and goes under a series of government-proposed psychological treatments that cause his body to react in pain when he has any violent or sexual thoughts. Thus, he loses the freedom to choose to be good or evil. Bateman does an impressive job of mixing nudity with violence in scenes that shock the audience and enable them to realize that although what is happening on the stage is fictional, it is very much similar to the reality of the daily, small and unintentional violences we inflict upon our bodies, but the play acts this out in larger magnitude. Burgess’ cautionary novel, written over 50 years ago, comes to life in this play.
The play is innovative in that it uses modern elements that can be experienced through technology and costume. While waiting for the performance to start as well as during a few select moments during the show, two large television screens play a series of short clips featuring adults and children fighting, vintage porn and present day scenes from Black Lives Matter protests.
It is a mesh of violent and sexual imagery that cause the audience to reflect on the glorification of such material. Furthermore, the hoodies, leather jackets, boots and fashionable clothing that the narrator calls the echo of popular fashions of younger generations. The use of cellphones to record some of the fight scenes on stage only makes the scenes more convincing.
With such sensitive topics at hand, it is incredible how the actors portray their characters, even managing to elicit sympathy from the audience. Tissiere does an exceptional job with his character, Alex. His maniacal expressions, almost-visible internal conflicts and cries of agony are extraordinarily believable and moving. The audience comes to see him as another victim of his violent surroundings.
The stage combat employed in the show by multiple characters, which includes the use of knives, blades and even whips, is impressive. It is unbelievable that the actors don’t end up with fractured bones and bruised faces by the end of the insane display of violence and brutality throughout the play. All in all, it is outstanding and it is a performance that will surely initiate conversations on the matter of freedom of choice for all who see it.
Those unfamiliar with the book or movie, should know that “A Clockwork Orange” contains graphic depictions of sexual aggression and violence that can be triggering to survivors.
“A Clockwork Orange” closed last month.