Punk Rock Review - The Clock is Ticking

Since its first performance in Great Britain in 2009, PUNK ROCK has been produced almost constantly in venues as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and Canada. Clearly, talented playwright Simon Stephens has done something right. As well as gripping, intriguing, and intense. The Odyssey presents the Los Angeles premiere of this popular work.

Jacob B. Gibson, Kenney Selvey, Story Slaughter, and Raven Scott - Photo by Enci Box

When a tragic event occurs, it seems that everyone becomes a Monday morning quarterback; conjectures abound about the why and wherefore and how this tragedy could have been averted. PUNK ROCK takes a different tack, beginning with slices of the everyday life of a group of teenagers who are preparing for their final exams in a private school in Scotland.  Of course, “across the pond,” these are sixth termers in an expensive public school who are getting ready to take their Level A mock examinations.

Zachary Grant and Raven Scott - Photo by Enci Box

These are your “average” 16-year-olders busy exploring their identities within the high-stakes school environment. As you would expect, sexuality makes it appearance pretty early as couples dance around the choices they have. So too does the local bully, treading heavily on the anxieties of these vulnerable, yet tough on the outside, kids. Little by little, we get to know, understand, and perhaps feel empathy for these teens, including the verbose yet hidden William Carlisle (Zachary Grant); the quiet scholarship student who is the butt of everyone’s jokes, Chadwick Meade (Kenney Selvey); the thoughtless, vicious bully Bennett Francis (Jacob B. Gibson); and the obvious candidate for “Most Handsome,“ Nicholas Chatman (Nicholas Marini). The boys are complimented by their female counterparts (Raven Scott, Miranda Wynne, and Story Slaughter).

Story Slaughter, Jacob B. Gibson, Miranda Wynne, and Nick Marini - Photo by Enci Box

Skilled director Lisa James breathes life into these disparate teenagers, each with his own story and his own set of vulnerabilities – all thrown together in a high stress situation demanding that they define their futures. Through superb acting, each character gradually grows real and complete. Hormones become explosive as the tension builds, degree by degree. Audience Alert: PUNK ROCK runs for nearly two hours without an intermission. You are warned before the show that, if you leave the theater, you will not be permitted re-entry. No doubt this direction adds to the overall tension in the production.

Punk Rock Cast - Photo by Enci Box

John Iacovelli keeps the scenic design dull and “schoolish,” and audience members may well become a bit nostalgic for “the good old days.” More importantly, the environment never intrudes on the real happenings in the play – all of which are clearly internal.  Brian Gale’s lighting, Halei Parker’s costumes, Christopher Moscatiello’s sound, and Matthew Glave’s fight choreography contribute to making this chunk of school life feel very real. In fact, authenticity is achieved by actors and environment alike – which makes this a fascinating and very intense study of kids and conflict.

Story Slaughter, Jacob B. Gibson, Kenney Selvey, and Miranda Wynne - Photo by Enci Box

PUNK ROCK runs through May 14, 2017, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Tickets range from $25 to $34. For information and reservations, call 310-477-2055 or go online.

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