Life is hard. Relationships are more difficult. War is hell.
I thought I’d eliminate that thematic cheat sheet before I talk about the truly exceptional things about “Green Day’s American Idiot,” playing at the Gainesville Community Playhouse until June 12th.
It’s a post-9/11 punk opera, which is to say, it’s not the musical production of your father’s big GCP ensemble.
The cast is young, energetic and complete. The band is top notch. The choreography is exceptional – congratulations to Susan Christophe. And if you already know Green Day, needless to say, the songs are electric, discordant 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’re unfamiliar with Green Day, and in particular its groundbreaking 2004 concept album that docked the theatrical musical, you should probably know a few other things too.
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This production is less a punk “Tommy” than a nihilistic “Chorus Line”. That is to say, he sees a generation coming of age in an era of perpetual war abroad and growing polarization at home through a lens that is both extremely dark and one-dimensional.
The less anyone misses that point, “Nobody cares,” is scrawled in fluorescent orange. Both sides of the stage.
And “American Idiot” can also rate an age-appropriate label. F-bombs are thrown like grenades, middle fingers shoot up like arrows. And at the screening I attended, it was received with much more enthusiasm by younger viewers than their moderate elders.
Yes, this piece may not be suitable for mature viewers.
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The other thing about “American Idiot” is that it can be very difficult to sympathize with the main characters.
Basically, three young men who grew up in the suburbs watching “South Park” finally fly from the nest, guitars in hand, in search of fame and fortune.
Except one of them, Will, (Aegis Duensing) isn’t going anywhere, after impregnating his girlfriend. Will spends most of the room on a couch drinking beer and brooding while Heather (Lauren Wilkinson) carries her child, delivers it… and ends up walking out in disgust.
Can we help Will?
Johnny, meanwhile, goes down to the streets before succumbing to drugs. He meets a half-decent girl (Sydney Kruljac) and gets her hooked too. She leaves and he gets a pat on the back for at least not turning into an office zombie.
Say hello to Johnny.
The only half-likeable character is Tunny (Luke Gilboy) who drifts off into the military for lack of anything else to do, goes into battle, and ends up the worst.
A moral to this story is that Will, Tunny, Johnny, and probably the rest of their generation, never had a chance to shoot the American Dream. Maybe. On the other hand, there is precious little evidence that these three slackers even tried.
To borrow a line from the title track, “American Idiot” is “a sing-along in the age of paranoia.” So see it if you dare. But don’t trust anyone.
For tickets and showing times, see the GCP webpage.