The musical adaptation of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ lacks the dark intensity of the film

A bit of the old ultraviolence: Carissa Berge’s Alex is a decidedly mixed bag.
Richard Brusky
Jacob Coakley

The Details

A Clockwork Orange: A Play With Music
Two stars
February 1 & 3, 8 & 9, 8 p.m.; February 10, 2 p.m.; $20
Onyx Theatre, 732-7225

Anthony Burgess might have been unhappy with how Stanley Kubrick adapted his novel to the silver screen, but his own stage adaptation, A Clockwork Orange: A Play With Music, shows that he has no idea how to write dramatic material. For all of the show’s violence, there’s precious little conflict. The current production of the musical at the Onyx Theatre, directed by Brandon McClenahan and produced by Off-Strip Productions and QuadraNine, has vision but fails to rescue the show from its material.

One bold choice is casting a woman, Carissa Berge, as Alex the Large. She gives Alex a skeletal, androgynous look and plays his mercurial, manipulative nature well. But her slight frame makes it hard to take Alex seriously as a threat—even with the violence Alex perpetrates, which is similarly conflicted.

After flirting with a bit of shadow theater for an early rape scene, McClenahan puts the violence front and center, eschewing a metaphorical presentation of rape under the auspices of reality, aiming for edgy. But showing us a naked woman being actually manhandled by brutes does not make the rape shocking, or violence real. Instead, it’s uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons. We remain completely aware that this is make-believe, not an actual rape, and placing so much emphasis on “reality” merely highlights just how fake and artificial it is. We cannot be horrified by the literal, because theater isn’t literal; staging it that way misses what makes theater best.

Musically the show also needed work. The vocal composition of the choral numbers was uneven, with halting phrasing and lackluster diction. Some soloists are not singers, and reverted from singing to an almost spoken patter. The choreography for the show was cramped. Tim Burris’ set looked great at times but felt overly complicated and unwieldy.

McClenahan’s vision does come through occasionally. The opening scene was menacing and perfect; prepping Alex for the Ludovico technique was dreadfully creepy, and some of the costumes are ornate and spot-on (others look amateurish, but still, kudos to costumer Kit Rodgers). But in the end, this is a two-hour-plus show, and the moments were far too few.


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