Review: Zeitgeist Stage Company's "Punk Rock"

Amanda Doughty ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Book Editor
In a talk back after the show, director David Miller said that Zeitgeist Stage Company questioned whether or not to go through with their production of Punk Rock after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Given the show’s similar themes, they probably thought it could be too soon, and maybe trigger bad memories for people. However, after talking about it, they figured the show needed to be done now more than ever, and decided to continue with the production.
And I, for one, am so glad they did.
Punk Rock tries to get into the mind of a school shooter, asking what would bring someone to that point? What causes someone to crack like that? Therefore, a majority of the play revolves around the conversations between a group of friends: their relationships, their desire to do well in school, their dreams, etc. As each student continues to feel the pressures of their challenging exams, each feels the wrath of Bennett the bully, and each deals with their own personal issues, it becomes clear that any of these students could crack under the pressure. Thus, when one of them finally does, it’s still surprising, and heart-wrenching at the same time.
I went into this show knowing there was going to be a shooting, but knowing that didn’t ruin it for me. In fact, it kept me more interested, as I spent most of the show wondering who was actually going to do it, and who would be alive by the end of the show. Despite knowing the final plot twist, there were still things I didn’t see coming. And, to me, that shows truly fantastic writing.
That’s not to say this show didn’t drag, though. A majority of the first act felt a little slow to me, especially since most of it is seemingly pointless banter. But by the end of the show, it’s clear that playwright Simon Stephens really couldn’t cut any of it. Every sentence develops the characters and their relationships with one another. If he were to cut something, he would take away from the mystery behind the show, as well as all the signs to go back to once the shooter is finally revealed. So yes, the first act may seem like it’s a little boring, but it all makes sense in the end.
In terms of acting, this show is certainly no easy feat, and the actors take on the challenge with sheer grace. There’s no weak link here. Every performer in the small, intimate cast is terrific. The scenes are so tense and so driven- it’s truly something to be marveled at. Obviously, the actor who plays the shooter clearly stands out (and actually gives one of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen), but to reveal who that is specifically will ruin the surprise, so I will leave it at that. Nonetheless, the entire ensemble is incredible, and it adds so much to an already fantastic show.
But, to me, one of the most stand-out elements of this production is the way it’s staged. It’s done in a black box theater, which means they’re on the same level as the audience and the audience surrounds them. Basically, the audience is pretty much in every scene. For a show of this subject, I can’t imagine it being done any other way. Watching this all go down right in front of you, and having a kid practically die in your lap only adds to the intensity of the show’s themes. It really drives it all home. After the play ended, I was truly speechless, and I think the way it was staged was a huge factor in that.
Overall, the play was incredible. It’s beautifully written, well acted, and phenomenally staged. If you have the opportunity, make sure you see it. It left me breathless, and I’m sure it do the same for you.
Punk Rock being performed at the Plaza Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts from May 3 through 25, with performances Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 PM, Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 4 & 8 PM, and Sundays at 4 PM.

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