News Ticker

A Clockwork Orange

The highly stylized presentation of the classic Anthony Burgess novel from 1962 makes this well worth-while as an evening out at the theater.

Jonno Davis as Alex deLarge in a scene from Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange” (Photo credit: Caitlin McNanny)

David Kaufman

David Kaufman, Critic

A revisionist look at the classic Anthony Burgess novel from 1962, the stage version of A Clockwork Orange may throw you for a loop in more than one way. With its emphasis on choreographed movements and highly stylized acrobatics, the production–a British import–becomes more of a performance piece than a play. But the story of Alex and his “droog” comrades in violence is still there–even if it’s something less than front and center.

Though no one is credited with the adaptation, it has apparently been based on the Burgess book more than the 1971 Stanley Kubrick film that was adapted from it; and it uses much of the slang that Burgess invented for the novel, making much of the dialogue indecipherable.  Consider Alex’s line: “Is the whole world full of nothing but liars and treacherous brutal vecks that call themselves droogs?” And as another character explains, the slang is “Russian and English getting together to form an international teenage patois. Nadsat is the Russian suffix for teen.”

But given the highly stylized production and the slang, the show is much more about the performance than the story. And it’s a winning, stylized presentation under the hands-on staging of Alexandra Spencer-Jones, artistic director of the U.K.’s Action to The Words which originally developed and presented the piece. With sound design by Emma Wilk and lighting by James Baggaley, there’s frequently loud disco music and bright lights to add to the mayhem and the violence that define and describe Alex and his gang. When Alex is “being made sane” and “healthy” through aversion therapy–while he’s shown violent films and images, inducing him to vomit–his eyes are held open by another player, as opposed to the machinery in the film.

The Cast of Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange” (Photo credit: Caitlin McNanny)

And when, after two years of imprisonment, he goes home to his parents, and his mother asks what he’s going to “do now,” Alex replies, “Come home, Mum first. I mean, that’s where I live. Sort of….” But he doesn’t really live there–rather in the overactive imagination of Anthony Burgess who created what can only be summarized as a “Mod” character, perfectly inhabited on stage here by Jonno Davies in a constantly frenetic and over-the-top if appropriate performance. The other players include Jordan Bondurant, Jimmy Brooks, Matt Doyle, Sean Patrick Higgins, Brian Lee Huynh, Misha Osherovich, Ashley Robinson, Timothy Sekk, and Aleksander Varadian.

It’s unsurprising to learn from a feature-story in The New York Times that the all-male cast does heavy duty physical exercises on a regular basis before going on: their often shirtless, buff bodies confirm it. When clad, Alex and the droogs are wearing black tank tops, black pants, and white suspenders, and the other gang members wear white tank tops, white pants and black suspenders.

The only color in the predominantly black-and-white show is orange, which appears as a pair of high heels, a hat and a cape, an apron, books, and various other odd items. There’s also a large bowl of oranges, hanging high up on the black, back wall of the set. (Though Jennifer A. Jacob is credited as “Costume Coordinator” in the program, no one is listed for scenery.) Though it may not add up to much of a story or make much sense, the highly stylized presentation of A Clockwork Orange makes it well worth-while as an evening out at the theater.

A Clockwork Orange (through January 6, 2018)

New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-239-6210 or visit http://www.telecharge.com

Running time: 95 minutes with no intermission

David Kaufman
About David Kaufman (39 Articles)
David Kaufman has been covering the theater in New York since 1981. A former theater critic for the New York Daily News, he was also a long-time contributor to the Nation, Vanity Fair, the Village Voice and the New York Times. He is also the author of the award-winning Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam, the best-selling Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door, and his most recent biography, Some Enchanted Evenings: The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.