Spring Awakening Review - Not Your Parents Marriott Theatre

Ben Barker

Teenagers have always been highly susceptible to a particular type of growing pain commonly referred to as “teenage angst.” This inner turmoil of sexual awakening followed immediately by sexual frustration has been thoroughly mined by a large number of artists including the makers of the Bible (see Garden of Eden) as well as Pink Floyd. One fine example of this would be Frank Wedekind’s classic 1891 play Spring Awakening which navigated a teenage wasteland of issues that include lust, abortion, suicide, and masturbation. Over a century later Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater infused the play with a little rock and roll and the result was a clever, in-your-face hit that earned eight Tony awards before touring extensively through Europe and North America.

Brian Bohr

At first glance the Marriott Theatre, known primarily for their safe, family productions, might seem like an odd choice to display this sexually charged production. But its theater-in-the-round orientation allows for a more immediate connection than is possible in the majority of Chicago area theaters. Its limited run also is key in that it encourages Director Aaron Thielen to take risks which contributes to a very physical and sexy production that is downright haunting at times. When the characters sing that they are going to be wounded, you believe them. 

Betsy Stewart and Ben Barker

This is also a very well-acted production beginning with veteran actors Kevin Gudahal and Hollis Resnik playing various adults each more stern and less forgiving than the next. And as parents, well lets just say they prefer their children to stay children as well as be ashamed of their own desires. This of course leads to disastrous consequences. The stand out performance, however, belongs to Eliza Palasz (Wendla) who channels an incredible amount of tenderness as well as an arresting voice into the lead role. Her counterpart Patrick Rooney, as the cerebral rebel Melchior, appears less natural in his role although he does command the necessary presence and voice talent to make it work. Also shining on stage is the engaging Betsy Stewart (the bohemian Ilse) and Ben Barker (Moritz) who straddles the line quite nicely between madness and achievement.

Eliza Palasz

This might not be your father's Mariott Theatre, but it most certainly will resonate with his teenage children. It will also connect with anyone who has ever felt frustrated or misunderstood. That is to say it will connect with everyone.

Ben Barker and Patrick Rooney

Bottom Line:  Spring Awakening is highly recommended and is playing at the Mariott Theatre (10 Mariott Drive, Lincolnshire) through January 31st. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased at the marriott website or by calling (847) 634-0200. For more theater information as well as reviews, go to theatreinchicago

All photos by Liz Lauren



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