A fun night out for those troubled teens

Spring Some things are timeless. Sunsets. Waterford glass. And the sort of pubescent angst explored in Frank Wedekind’s spiky classic, Spring Awakening. A morality play on Spanish Fly, it’s lost none of its currency in the 115 years since the “father of German expressionism” wrote it to censure, censorship and sadly few cents. Now reupped as a musical in New York, this unchurchly tale of young sexuality, suicide and abortion is enjoying an extended run at Chelsea’s church-turned-Atlantic Theater Co. Spring Awakening weds the rock music of Duncan Sheik to the book and lyrics of Steven Sater and handily answers your question, How can I bond with my teen this weekend? The teens I rallied found it “awesome” and “amazing,” and vibed with its take on “the pressures of the risk of failure.” We even liked the same lines, including a young man’s pulsing words (and gests) to Shakespeare’s Desdemona: “Darling, don’t think I take your murder lightly.” Sheik and Sater reimagine Wedekind’s period reformatory as the scene of repeated rock-outs, and the anachronism takes. Moulin Rouge tried the same type of thing, but here, original songs like “The Bitch of Living” and “Totally Fucked” are anthems you can really use. Atlantic’s artistic director, Neil Pepe, initially wondered how to handle the play’s hot-button topics in its marketing. “We thought people would freak out, since it’s a play that deals with sexuality,” he tells us. “But there’s still lots of repression going on today and a lot of problems in terms of young adults discovering their sexuality.” To snag a young demo, the theater hit MySpace, chat and the blogosphere and said, “Let’s talk about this honestly.” That and “talkbacks” with high-school students got the buzz going. “Now it’s got a bit of a cult following,” Pepe says. Call it the cult of timelessness. As Sater says, “No doubt, the need for sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll have been with us since the Stone Age.”

—Posted by Laura Blum