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Dramashop excels in dark Awakening

Dramashop excels in dark Awakening

Spring's Awakening

MIT Dramashop Production

Directed by Michael Oullette.

Written by Frank Wedekind.

Kresge Little Theater

Feb. 3-5, 10-12; 8 p.m.

By Scott Deskin
Associate Arts Editor

The theater sets are often dark and moody. The performances fit the story, often combining comic, tragic, and grotesque actions (real or implied) within the same scene. Yet there is an underlying message to be found in MIT Dramashop's performance about humanity, maturity, and redemption.

Spring's Awakening certainly combines all these elements. A sometimes brutal and perverse cross between Catch-22 and A Separate Peace, it treats life, death, and sexual coming-of-age with both poignance and stark cynicism. It tells the story of the experiences of pubescent schoolboys in Germany, perhaps a century ago, and their experiences with their feelings and sexual desires toward the opposite sex and each other.

The main focus is on Melchior (Eugene Chiang '95), a would-be-scholar on sexuality were it not for his own inexperience on the subject, and his friend Moritz (Robert J. Dyckman '94), whose own insecurity and newfound hormonal instincts make it difficult for him to speak to the opposite sex. As they are both judged early on to be outcasts from the main group of students, they choose to confide in each other. Also in town is a group of girls, led by Wendla (Tara V. Perry '96), a young woman who is also experiencing the feelings of puberty, but is constantly shielded by her mother (Maribel L. Delfaus '95) from the realities of male-female sexual relations.

Moritz has such reservations about his place in school that, when his request to Melchior's mother for passage to America is dismissed as a whim, he contemplates suicide. And later, Melchior is cited as a bad influence on Moritz (via a 20-page illustrated document on sexuality) and loses control over his desires to Wendla, corrupting her morality as well as opening her eyes to the relationships that her mother would only vaguely cite as "love."

Although many of the performances are superb, it may take the audience a while to warm up to the characters because of the nonlinearity of their actions and the immediate context of them. For example, a scene where Wendla asks Melchior to beat her with a rod (sparked by a friend's beating by her parents), he reluctantly, then violently, obliges her. Only later do we learn that Wendla's emotional as well as sexual desires were piqued when she again meets with him to presumably understand more about his nature.

In addition to Chiang and Dyckman as the leads, the supporting cast does a good job. Marivi B. Acuna '94 brings a gently bemused but solemn dignity to her role as Mrs. Gabor, Melchior's mother. Michelle A. Starz '94 also adds an element of reality as a friend to Moritz who has discovered the opportunities --pleasures and horrors combined -- that have come with her various relationships.

Spring's Awakening is a production that is somewhat flawed in presentation but often brilliant in its candor and insights into the frustration and difficulties that arise when family mores become secondary to teenage desires when dealing with sex. It is not a play for everyone, and is sometimes explicit in its depiction of masturbation on stage, but it succeeds in confronting an audience with the foundation of sexual mores in society.