After Stanley Kubrick’s stunning and complex film version, it would almost seem foolhardy to attempt a stage production of Anthony Burgess’s “A Clockwork Orange.” The effort currently on display makes a lively stab at the challenge, but while the staging is sometimes visually arresting, the meanings are hard to grasp.
Director Alexandra Spencer-Jones relies heavily on choreographed movements, at times ballet-like, to give action to the drama. Male actors, most with muscular bodies, play the assorted roles with extensive doubling. Jonno Davies is the wicked and violent Alex deLarge, who leads his gang of hooligans in contemporary England.
Davies is ultra dynamic and carries the production, which is consistently very busy as it races through the tale with no intermission. The play starts violently, with Alex and his goons in a battle with rivals, very much choreographed.
“A Clockwork Orange” is replete with the made-up language called Nadsat, which sounds a lot like bastardized Russian. The effort is to give a larger than life aura to the world in which Alex and his followers move.
But what does it all mean? The concept is that if one takes away violent aspects of behavior that can also squelch the better impulses. There are those who try to remove the destructiveness, but the corrupt government wants to thwart this approach and also use the subject, Alex, politically.
There are merely nods to such ideas as expressed in the film version, but they are lost in the onslaught of masculine physicality that is highlighted in this staging. The result is loud and extremely busy without emphasizing what “A Clockwork Orange” is really all about. At New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street. Reviewed October 6, 2017.