"It all takes place on a well-conceived set featuring a scrim with a depiction of spring, centered by a butterfly that can appear both lovely and menacing as it gazes down on the human drama playing out below."
Spring's Awakening
by Rob Hopper
Frank Wedekind wrote this controversial play more than a century ago. The subject matter was too risqué for most communities then, and it’s still often considered taboo. But Director Marlene Zuccaro and the Hamilton Academy of Music became one of the few high schools willing to stage this show – a story that spawned the musical that went on to take the Tony in 2007.

Spring’s Awakening tells the story of a group of high school students living in turn-of-the-century Germany where talk of sex is restricted to stories about storks. It makes for a humorous scene as an uncomfortable Mrs. Bergmann (well played by Lauren Moreno) hesitantly offers the stork tale to her curious, naïve fourteen-year-old daughter Wendla (Ivy Beech). But when the reality comes crashing down on Wendla, the innocent humor of the stork is replaced by a tragedy that is powerfully staged, with Ivy Beech giving a very strong performance from the curious girl embracing and hungry for life, to the shocked and broken young woman who could never have foreseen the turn of events that threaten to shatter her.

Joseph Loera stars as Melchior, nicely portraying the confident and intelligent young man who is equally eager to know about the world around him, especially the secrets that are hidden from youth. He discovers in writing and pictures the truths about copulation, but is unsatisfied with simply knowing it in an intellectual sense, leading to a disturbing but riveting end to the first act. Sean Eads is Moritz Steifel, Melchior’s best friend, awkward and nervous around both girls and his studies, feelings of inferiority threatening to overwhelm him. Sean nails the role of Moritz as we see the pressure slowly building, coming to a head when he meets the worldly Ilse (Laura Donney) alone in the woods. Ilse is the girl who knows too much about sex, abused by her relatives and running away from home to know many loves. Sean and Laura combine for a stunningly powerful scene together with Ilse opening up, reminiscing about her innocence, but the still nervous Moritz too fearful to accept the affection she offers him. The ruined, tearful Ilse rushes away, leaving Moritz with the words, “By the time any of you are ready, I’ll be on the rubbish heap.”

Travis Clayton is a coolly arrogant Hanschen, with Spencer Tatum as Hanschen’s eager, lapdog sidekick Ernst. The ensemble includes nice work by parents, students, and a group of nuns that can be both amusing and scary. Interludes between scenes tell some of the story through beautiful dance choreographed by talented high school senior Brittany Whittaker. It all takes place on a well-conceived set featuring a scrim with a depiction of spring, centered by a butterfly that can appear both lovely and menacing as it gazes down on the human drama playing out below.

Performs March 19 - 28, 2009.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre