American Idiot, the new theatrical rendition by Berkeley Rep, feels like a finely tuned pageant dressed up as a musical. If you got all the disaffected, talented slacker kids together from the block…Sound familiar? Hair Meets Rent For the 21st Century?
The music is great. Lots of deeply moving ballads woven together with an angry punk sensibility. But where are those punks today? Are they still out on the streets shamed and screaming about the Idiot President who has, long since, departed the scene? Or are they a little more concerned about finding their slacker asses a job?
I say the latter, but the play says the former. And that is one of the two glaring deficiencies of the production: it’s a couple of years past its prime, the Bush Bashing Days, and a time to be angry at our country, over for most.
Number two, the narrative is weak (and pretty much non-existent), it focuses on three familiar plot lines: the boy who moves to the big city, the boy who stays home and gets his girl pregnant, and the boy who goes off to war. Stop this plot I want to get off!
Zero characterization, sparse dialogue, and absolutely no chance for the actors to act. This leaves only the music to star, and possibly, hopefully, further the plot. But that doesn’t happen because the lyrics are difficult to understand.
In rock n’ roll, you don’t hear the intricacies of the lyrics the first time through, you feel the vibe, baby. And you especially can’t hear the lyrics when they’re loud as all fuck and muffled by the earplugs you’re handed when you walk in the theater. Do I take them out? Put them in? Back out? It was awkward. (I took them out about 10 times during the show.) BTW, can someone please invent a remote control earplug for A.I. before it hits Broadway?
Broadway? High risk. Investors beware.
Advice: Just go buy the album, invite a few friends over, get high and rap about a country who finally seems to have gotten our slacker asses in gear.