Life, despair and everything

Here’s my review of “Green Day’s American Idiot,” now playing at the Gainesville Community Playhouse.

Photo by Jeff Wilkinson, SWI Photography.

Life is hard. Relationships are harder. War is hell.

Thought I’d get that thematic cheat sheet out of the way before we speak of the really exceptional things about “Green Day’s American Idiot,” playing at the Gainesville Community Playhouse thought June 12.

This is a post-911 punk opera, which is to say that it’s not your father’s GCP big ensemble musical production.

The cast is young, energetic and all-in. The band is first rate. The choreography is exceptional – kudos to Susan Christophe. And if you already know Green Day, I don’t have to tell you that the songs are electric, jarring and anarchic.

So if you go I hope you have the time of your life…to borrow a terrific line from Green Day’s “Good Riddance”

But if you are not familiar with Green Day, and especially its groundbreaking 2004 concept album that berthed the theatrical musical, you probably ought to know a couple of other things as well.

This production is less a punk “Tommy” than a nihilistic “Chorus Line.” Which is to say that it views a generation coming of age in the era of perpetual war abroad and growing polarization at home through a lens that is both extremely dark and one dimensional.

Less anybody miss that point, “Nobody cares,” is scrawled in fluorescent orange. On both sides of the stage.

And “American Idiot” may well rate an age appropriate label as well. F bombs are hurled like grenades, middle fingers soar like arrows. And at the showing I attended, it was received far more enthusiastically by younger viewers than their subdued elders.

Yes, this play may not be appropriate for, um, mature viewers.

The other thing about “American Idiot,” is that it can be very difficult to empathize with the main characters.

Basically three young men who grew up in the suburbs watching “South Park” finally fly the nest, guitars in hand, in search of fame and fortune.

Except one of them, Will, (Aegis Duensing) goes nowhere, having impregnated his girlfriend. Will spends virtually the entire play on a couch drinking beer and brooding while Heather (Lauren Wilkinson) carries his child, births it…and finally walks out in disgust.

Can we get a hand for Will?

Johny, meanwhile, gets as far as the streets before he succumbs to drugs. He meets a halfway decent girl (Sydney Kruljac) and gets her hooked as well. She leaves and he gets a pat on the back for at least not turning into an office zombie.

Take a bow Johny.

The only halfway sympathetic character is Tunny (Luke Gilboy) who drifts into the army for lack of anything else to do, goes into combat and ends up the worst for it.

One moral to this story is that Will, Tunny, Johny, and presumably the rest of their generation, never got a fair shot at the American Dream. Maybe so. On the other hand, there is precious little evidence that these three slackers even tried.

To borrow a line from the title song, “American Idiot” is “a sing-along to the age of paranoia.” So see it if you dare. But trust no one.

For tickets and showing times see the GCP’s web page.

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