Saturday, November 7, 2009

BAD boys. GREAT reviews!

All photos by Rich Kowalski unless otherwise stated.

"Amazing. Dark and hallucinatory. Like a graphic novel on stage. This definitely belongs in New York!" Clay McLeod Chapman, The Pumpkin Pie Show (of whom the New York Times just last week said "...there's a new generation of theater artists reared on a diet of vampires, zombies and charming serial killers. Call this movement the Theater of Blood. At the forefront is Clay McLeod Chapman, whose “Pumpkin Pie Show” channels the spirit of H. P. Lovecraft.")


"What a trip! And I wasn't on anything I swear. Delicious psychotropic madness!" Mike Edison, former editor/publisher of counterculture magazine HIGH TIMES and the author of I Have Fun Everywhere I Go.

"Spooky as sh*t!"
Pulitzer Prize finalist David Gates, author of Jernigan and Preston Falls


"I loved the creepy cinematic quality of the production. So many scenes spooled out like movie clips from a film by, say, Tim Burton, or maybe Terry Gilliam. Excellent work!" Robert Festinger, Oscar nominated screenwriter (In the Bedroom).


“A tour de force…bold…a completely new experience even if you've seen the film and read the book…strikingly different…The Raconteur really made it their own.” Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net, the definitive Clockwork Orange web site

"Awesome."
Weird Tales, Hugo Award winning fantasy and horror fiction pulp magazine first published in 1923.


"I really enjoyed the play: beautifully staged; funny; inventive. I liked it better than the film; it was darker; more playful; philosophical. And I loved those Orson Welles lights shooting up from the stage! I was singing "All the Young Dudes" the whole week. I'm serious! Well done." Robert Kaplow, whose novel, Me and Orson Welles, a valentine to the burly thespian, was recently turned into a movie by indie filmmaker Richard Linklater (Dazed & Confused). It stars Zac Efron, Claire Danes, and Christian McCay as Welles. Film critic Roger Ebert called Me and Orson Welles the "best movie about theater" he'd ever seen.


"Alex Dawson’s production of CLOCKWORK ORANGE at Middlesex County College was striking in several ways. First, it is a dynamic adaptation for the stage that takes advantage of everything live theater has to offer. Second, it draws on the talents of a fine collection of gifted, local artists. Third, it showcases the Theater Department at Middlesex County College as a cutting edge theater producer, putting the college on the map as a destination for theatergoers in central New Jersey." Grace Shackney, Administrative Director of THE MCCARTER THEATER (widely recognized as one of the country's leading theaters).


"Have you ever felt breathless? Well, that's how you feel (and FEEL is the operative word here) when you watch Alex Dawson's electrifying adaptation of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE at Middlesex County College. What Dawson and the talented cast have done is utilized the unique elements of theater: the dialogue, the way lighting and setting can create mood and atmosphere, the ability theater has to transport us into a completely different world, into another person's psyche. Dawson's production is a carnival ride, and it will leave you breathless.

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is thinking persons' theater, which makes it an ideal match with MCC. College is where we go to be stimulated, challenged, tested. It is time during which we begin to think for ourselves. I live locally, love theater, and, over the years, have attended quite a few productions at MCC. In presenting A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, MCC not only achieved a level of artistic excellence I had not seen there before, they also richly fulfilled their mission as a true center of education. Bravo to the crew, the cast, and to the receptive audiences. I hope this is just the beginning of a long and thrilling association between MCC and Alex Dawson."
Tom Lynch, former editor of THEATRE WORLD, the oldest (first published in 1945), pictorial and statistical record of the American theatre, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway, and regional theatre. In 2001, it recieved a special Tony for Excellence in Theatre.



"THIS CLOCK WORKS!Local theater abounds in productions of plays you may have already seen more times than you can count, or perhaps original or obscure works that you’ve never heard of, so it takes a certain title to really catch my attention, which is what happened when I became aware that Middlesex County College was staging A Clockwork Orange. Like most avid film fans of my generation, I am well versed in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 motion picture adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel, so I was very intrigued by how this might be adapted for theater. For the first time ever, I actually made it a point to see something being performed at the college, which, to my shame, I had never done before, despite living nearby. Orange did the trick. I was immediately glad I came, as the set design itself captured my fancy upon entering the auditorium, in so much as it included actual clockworks, a shiny cow’s head to depict Burgess’s famous milk bar setting, and what appeared to be an on-stage DJ. The vision was already different from Kubrick’s, so I felt I was in good hands.


As anyone aware of the piece knows, Orange is highly unsettling, but it needs to be to make its point about how scientific alteration of one’s behavior (even vile and inhumane behavior) is not the answer to society’s problems, as it deprives the individual of his choice to be good or bad. It is an important message and I was glad to see that, as presented by Alex Dawson, it came across loud and clear, with imagination, faithfulness to the source material, and tremendous energy that made the whole thing zip by in record time. I was also very impressed with how he managed to retain the power of the piece, but without venturing into the more graphically violent or sexually explicit areas that had made the movie so controversial. Dawson, therefore, made Orange accessible to students without crossing any potentially incendiary boundaries.


Having grown up when the film version was very prominent, in movie theaters, on college campuses (where it was a particular favorite), and on cable, this work was out there for everyone to experience. In recent years, I was worried that it had evaporated from the public consciousness, which would be a shame. The decision to present this new version at Middlesex is something I champion fervently; I believe it will make people think, make them seek out the original novel and movie, and make those with an interest in theater very excited about the very idea of performing themselves. And, what’s more, it will make me search out future productions that will be staged at Middlesex, hoping for the same degree of originality and daring." Barry Monush, the author of the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965 and Everybody's Talkin': The Top Films of 1965 - 1969.


"EXPLOSIVE...INSPIRED...TRANSCENDENT...PROVOCATIVE. Using an explosive combination of musical accompaniment, from the Smiths to Peter Gabriel to Mott the Hoople and, of course, Alex's favorite Ludwig Van, Alex Dawson has given Anthony Burgess' A CLOCKWORK ORANGE a steampunked reinterpretation. With inspired performances by T.J. McNeill as Alex, Jason Jackson as the DJ, Shawn Harrison, Jeff Maschi, Jane Smith and Metuchen's own Carlyle Owens playing multiple roles, [MCC's] A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is a compelling and provocative stage production. Alex, the hormonally-raging and ravaging teen tornado has been reconsidered by Dawson as "Mack the Knife meets Ferris Bueller with the coke binge elocution of Robin William's cartoon genie." Without explicit violence and sexually graphic setpieces, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE presents Burgess' scary sneety in a nadmenny raskazz guaranteed to brosay a poogly kick to the audience's keeshkas. For translation and transcendent theatrical experience, get to the the show this weekend!" Janna Sicliana for MetuchenMatters.com, an online newspaper covering Metuchen and its environs.


"All the elements worked so well: the acting was superb (great casting, especially with Alex! How seamlessly he delivered the gang slang mixed in with standard English, and his body movements and his look gave him total ownership of the role). The music was totally spot-on, picking up the feel and themes of every scene, and the synth versions of Ludwig Van were great (who did the arrangement? it wasn't listed in the program, or if it was I missed it); the SET was great, I particularly liked the scrolled moldings and the "treatment" chair! And you're right, the black suits with the knee and elbow pads gave the whole world an edgy elegance. An awesome show. Perhaps we'll get the chance to see it again one night this week." Alexandra Vozeh, teacher (incidentally, she did see it a second time)


"I gather the show was aimed at a younger, hipper crowd. But I'm 65 and I loved it! All of it. Including the music. Especially Shock the Monkey. Which Gabriel wrote, I think, in criticism of Stanley Milgram's social experiments. Anyway, considering my background, I found the scenes of behavioral conditioning particularly chilling." Bill McKelvey, former Director of Psychiatric Social Work at Essex County Hospital Center


"I attended the Sunday, October 25th matinee of The Clockwork Orange and enjoyed the show immensely. Sitting in the audience before the play began I was struck by the challenge of restructuring Anthony Burgess’ original literary work into an updated live production. It occurred to me that though the book had examined enduring social issues, it had done so through a prism that perhaps best fit the particular viewpoint of the early 1960s. An attempt to update the material, I worried, risked becoming an overly simplified and cynical exhibition of the stylistic elements that formed the frame – though not the core – of the original work.

I was excited, then, by Alex Dawson’s nimble transformation and modernization of the book’s central narrative. I was equally impressed by the talented actors who realized his vision on the stage – they clearly shared his understanding of the material and its meaning. Instead of simplification what emerged was a highly complex and personal experience; instead of being seduced by the book’s dystopian conceits into producing a reflexive parody, the original work’s darkly-tinged and subtle optimism was presented with skill throughout the play. Though I’ve been a resident of Middlesex County for more than 25 years, I hadn’t attended a College-sponsored theatrical production in the past. In fact, Alex Dawson’s invitation to do so was the first I’ve ever received. I hope, however, that it won’t be the last."
Dan Capriotti


"Dear Middlesex County College; Thank you very much for putting on "A Clockwork Orange". It's so great to be able to see unique, uncompromising and original productions right here in the local area. Everything about it... acting, script, direction, sets, lighting was spot on. Keep up the great work!" Mike and Norene Kaplan

"Sold out crowd at last night's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE! Kudos to Alex, T.J., Jane, Matt, Joe D, Tony, Scott, and the rest of the cast and crew. Intriguing spectacle of set, lights, music, staging, and performance! Looking forward to returning for the midnight show!"
Carolyn Jay Tochy

"Clockwork exploded my expectations. First the ensemble acting and solos were superbly integrated, nobody missed a beat, and of course I must single out Mr. McNeill for creating a unique character all his own. I had no thoughts whatever of Malcolm Macdowell. The staging was terrific and the movement beautifully choreographed (the way the Droogs navigated the set was really wonderful). Inevitably, one thinks of CO, with its slang and made up words, as extremely verbal. But what muscularity Dawson gave those words! An extremely physical production!" Laurence Mintz


"Performance was awesome! A really wonderful take on the show!" Linda Vonderschmidt-La Stella, sculptor

"A savage treat of pure sensual overload!" Rich Kowalski, photographer

"I really enjoyed the play A Clockwork Orange. The actors were great, and the lighting and scenery was exciting. But I especially liked the effect of the tied up, twitching main character remaining on the stage in the dark during intermission. It drew me in more as a participant in the play rather than just an observer. The intermission is the audiences "back to reality time," and he became part of that time. I'm looking forward to seeing another play directed by Alex Dawson!!" Elizabeth Jones


"I'm not necessarily a play person. I don't generally have the attention span, and the handful I've seen never really kept me interested. And yet I saw A Clockwork Orange twice. It was captivating. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was the set. Twisted metal lit up by eerie blue and red lights. It was spectacular. Almost immediately after taken in the visual, I had Fun Machine's insane take on Beethoven. The set and the music actually made the wait for the show to start fascinating. Once it began, TJ McNeill blew my mind. He created an Alex that you could love to hate, who was frightening and hilarious at the same time. The humor throughout the play was great. A Clockwork Orange's story is fantastic to begin with, but it flowed extremely well on stage. Two actors I especially like was the guy playing the priest and the woman playing the lady scientist. I enjoyed the subtle way the lady scientist didn't mind and even enjoyed the horrible images she made Alex watch. The choice of songs throughout was perfect. Even the way intermission started was slick with Alex staying in the chair throughout. The only thing about this play that sucks is that I can't see it again." Ben Lukman, MCC student


"An incendiary bildungsroman. Superb!" David Liss

"I saw A CLOCKWORK ORANGE at Middlesex County College with TJ McNeil. I saw it twice, because it was so well done. TJ was amazing. The set was perfect, and the choice of music was just right." Jeana Torzilli

"The production was as cutting and as keen-edged as a razor blade (or should I say "britva"). The acting was brilliant with special praise for T.J. McNeil (Alex) and Jane Hardy (Dr.Brodsky) and to whoever did the casting. The eerie music and spooky set was perfect for this Halloween season. As one droogie in the audience commented "I'll give it 4.5 out of 5 stars". I'm certainly going to add Middlesex Community College to my list of theatrical venues. I can hardly wait for the next production!" Martin Weingast


"Clockwork was really something. What a set! The lead was really engaging. Great music too. Congratulations on a great production." Brian Hajjar

"The genius of the novel surges in Dawson's sensory adaptation." Jaqueline Rocci

"Kudos to the MCC Theater Arts Department for its recent production of A Clockwork Orange directed by Alex Dawson. Dawson’s modern vision for this iconic classic was masterfully executed from casting to set design. The show wasn't typical of college theater, and as a resident of Middlesex County I am thrilled that I was able to experience this caliber of production in my 'own back yard'. I hope this marks a burgeoning commitment to quality arts programming at MCC." Jennifer Rector

"We LOVED it!!! Great job!!!" John Raido, musician/teacher

"The production makes full use of the theatre. Full use of lights and sound and movement. What we see is consistent with what we hear. The play is framed around and above by banisters, cages, and cogs. The audience - all of us - are framed by the pronouncements of officialdom and the relentless clockwork mechanism. TJ plays three roles: the victimizer, the victim, and the integrated person. His performance is an absolute tour-de-force. This is integrated theatre, whole theatre, total theatre!" John Weick, composer


"Not having seen the film since the '70's, Dawson's production not only refreshed my memory of the movie, it gave me a unique and provocative interpretation of it. TJ MacNeill was a very compelling Alex. Wonderful production all around!"
Virginia Weinstein, Director of Production, Holiday House

"When I walked into the College theater to see their production of A Clockwork Orange on that rainy Friday night, I must admit I was skeptical. As a die hard fan of Stanley Kubrick's kick *ss flick, I wondered if a stage adaptation could viscerally stand up. Well, my friends, it not only stood up, but also managed to present the often philosophically complex story in a clear and poignant way that, in my opinion, surpassed Kubrick's sometimes hard-to-understand movie. The MCC/Rac production breathed new life into this classic with its visually stunning costuming and set design. Its ability to stay true to (and even clarify) Burgess's original message, while simultaneously presenting a very fresh interpretation was impressive. I came back to see it again. This time I brought my Mom, a high school English teacher who first introduced me to the book when I was thirteen. She loved it, too!" Anthony Serino, musician


"I thought the show was choodessny...it took keeshkas to undertake this razkazz...the set, music & cast, especially TJ were zammechat! Congratulations!" Beverly Nuzzo

"I had the pleasure of attending the mischief night performance of A Clockwork Orange. Mr. Dawson and his team artfully captured the rollicking, anti-authoritarian spirit of the Kubrick film most are familiar with, as well as keeping faithful to the message of concern of Burgess's novel. T.J. McNeill did a very good job portraying Alex, the film's anti-hero, coming across as an exuberant man-child, with a seductively mischievous swagger. Even when taunting and bashing his innocent victims, he does so "with heart", committing his dastardly acts with a wit and glee that was a guilty pleasure to behold.Of the other assorted performers, Jeff Maschi as the Old Drunk is one of several who stand out, first singing a silly song with rotgut-sodden gusto, then submitting to the Droogs' attack with a moving, nihilistic resignation. The set design and props were another effective feature of the production. Add to this Mr. Dawson's new take on the wardrobe, along with the scaffolded DJ and intriguing musical selections, and we have a distilled and refreshing rendering of " A Clockwork Orange." The director has made it his own while at the same time staying loyal to this timeless and classic exploration of rebellious, confounded youth." Sue Scara

Bear in mind, this is about ten feet up.

"I loved the reworked aesthetic, transmuted via a modern rock soundtrack and expertly crafted set pieces, which were successful in maintaining the atmosphere of careless pain, failed guidance, and young irreverence. The appropriately selected scenes were well played, and executed with seamless transitions and a constant attendance to the needs of an audience. Dynamic changes in sound kept ears full while the set, with its many points of entry/exit and multiple/scalable tiers surrounded me with the experience which I found enjoyable. In particular, I remember thinking that the opening sequence, involving the brutal clang of metal on metal, was a proper introduction to the friction filled story that was about to start. At another point in the show I noticed an elderly female member of the audience covering her ears against the aggressive guitars and menacing drum track…..more evidence that this take on the cult classic got it just about right." Neil Mohammed, teacher


"Just wanted to raise my glass of moloko to Dawson and his fine cast and crew for a terrificly inventive and entertaining staging of "A Clockwork Orange" at the Middlesex College theater. I thought the unique combination of set, lighting, sound and costume design was very well conceived, creating a vibrant and unsettling theatrical environment which worked beautifully within the limits of the theater space. Special kudos for the spirited performance of the lead actor, who brought real energy, charisma and malevolent wit to the character of Alex, as well as to the fine group of actors playing multiple supporting roles. Also want to pay a special compliment to that gulliver-pounding (but pleasurable!) soundtrack of electro-Ludwig Van that tied the proceedings together and kept them moving forward at full throttle. To coin a phrase... real horror show!" Randall Lawson

"I was beyond impressed with Alex Dawson’s provocative and irreverent staging of A Clockwork Orange, a production that far exceeded my expectations in both design and performance. I have to believe that hosting such innovative theater will be a great advantage for the college, especially, but not limited to, the art department. I was thrilled to see such a beautiful building for the arts as well as some very talented artists on display in the gallery space. As an instructor at Montclair State University for the past four years, I have seen first hand how a greater presence of the arts can affect a college campus. It is exactly these kinds of extracurricular events that can transform a state or county school into a destination. I hope to see more in the future, and I am pleased to know that there is such an accessible venue for great performances." Chris Gash, Visiting Specialist, Illustration, Montclair University.

"A Clockwork Orange was a visually stimulating play in every respect. The set, costumes, and props set the mood of an industrial, somewhat post apocalyptic, environment that came forth in the designs. It was an atmosphere of fear and dirtiness that helped to emphasize the dark aroma of the story. TJ McNeil’s performance as Alex was eerie, sickening, and heart warming. You disliked the character, but couldn’t help but to relate to his pain and suffering. The use of the smaller, intimate, Black Box Theater helped to make the play more personal to the audience. We became part of the show. TJ McNeil even interacted with members, such as myself, by nudging me with his came, only heightening the creepiness of the character." Jason Stewart

Photo taken by audience member.


THE CAST



THE SET (Click pic to enlarge)



GOT CLOCKED THIS OCTOBER? ORANGE YOU GLAD YOU DID? OR... MAYBE NOT. EITHER WAY, WE'D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS. E-mail your review to us at raconteurbooks@gmail.com or post it below.

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