A Clockwork Orange

Rated 3.0 When Anthony Burgess published A Clockwork Orange, his dystopian novel about violence and mind control, in 1962, the Rolling Stones had yet to surface with their “bad boy” look and satanic dabbling. The Stones were perfect for Clockwork, and they even tried, unsuccessfully, to buy the rights to make the film. Stanley Kubrick finally made the Clockwork movie in 1971. It was brilliant but disturbingly at ease with brutality. When British kids began emulating the film’s violence with copycat attacks, Kubrick withdrew it in the United Kingdom.Burgess disliked the film. He reclaimed his book by adapting Clockwork as a stage musical/operetta in 1986. (By that time, the Sex Pistols had come and gone, adding another layer of dark irony.)

What is the musical like? Remember that Burgess’ passions were William Shakespeare, James Joyce and Ludwig van Beethoven. Their influence is everywhere. It retains Burgess’ invented language (a mix of Russian, Elizabethan English and trash talk). Though it’s not as violent as the film, it’s still jarring.

This production by the Actor’s Theatre is a high-ambition, low-budget effort with community players. Some are more experienced than others, but director Anthony D’Juan capitalizes on a winning performance from Michael Claudio. Claudio is Alex, the young killer who’s sentenced to an experimental mind-makeover. Tony SingingEagle directs the music with nimble wit.

This show is nowhere near as slickly staged as The Underpants (the B Street farce reviewed on this page). But despite its modest technical scope and flaws, Clockwork gives the mind more to chew on. Having seen both, I’d say that Clockwork leaves the more lasting impression.