Punk Rock OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Sara Krulwich
  • NY TIMES

  • NY POST

  • HR

  • EW

  • TM

Opening Night:
November 17, 2014
Closing:
December 14, 2014

Theater: Lucille Lortel Theatre / 121 Christopher Street, New York, NY, 10014

Synopsis: 

In a private school outside of Manchester, England a group of highly-articulate seventeen year-olds flirt and posture their way through the day while preparing for their A-Level mock exams. With hormones raging and minimal adult supervision, nothing can mask the underlying tension that becomes increasingly pronounced as the clock ticks towards the ultimate dismissal. Inspired by playwright Simon Stephens’ (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeHarper Regan) own experiences as a teacher, Punk Rock is an honest and unnerving chronicle of contemporary adolescence at the breaking point. Punk Rock is inspired by the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, which Stephens believes “left its scar over the beginning of the 21st century.”

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Punk Rock

    Don’t Let Those Neat Uniforms Fool You

    Ben Brantley

    November 18, 2014: Something is seriously wrong with the characters in Punk Rock, Simon Stephens’s tender, ferocious and frightening play at the Lucille Lortel Theater. They wear their nerves dangerously close to the skin, and their moods swing unhinged. They think of themselves as the best and the worst of all possible beings. And almost all the time, they hurt, in both the active and passive senses of the word. You know that checklist, right? These miserable people are suffering from the classic and unavoidable condition of being teenagers. Most of their symptoms will eventually go into remission. That is, if they’re lucky enough to survive what ails them. Punk Rock, which opened on Monday night in an MCC production directed by Trip Cullman, inspires wonder that anybody makes it to the end of adolescence. Enacted by a marvelous young cast that dares to go places most grown-ups like to forget exist, this portrait of British private-school students during exam season is one of the most piercing studies of kids’ inhumanity to kids since poor Piggy snuffed it in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. It is hardly new territory being explored here. Exploiting the discontents of puberty as entertainment is a multibillion-dollar business. Our film, television, book and recording industries would all be in sorry shape without teenage angst to draw from.

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  • NEW YORK POST REVIEW OF Punk Rock

    Simon Stephens explores teenage violence in clichéd but effective ‘Punk Rock’

    Elisabeth Vincentelli

    November 17, 2014: Punk Rock received pretty good reviews when it premiered in London five years ago. Maybe our British friends haven’t seen as many teen dramas as we have, because the play will be awfully familiar to anybody who’s been exposed to The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and other angsty high school flicks. The main update is that the violence level is in the red. Make that in the blood-red. Simon Stephens — whose adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is now on Broadway — has set his play in the north of England, where he once taught. But despite the distance and accents, these private-school students will be recognizable to any American. You’ve got the rebellious, self-harming newbie, Lilly (Colby Minifie), who picks hottie Nicholas (Pico Alexander) over romantic loner William (Douglas Smith). The obligatory bully, Bennett (Will Pullen), forms a power couple with the blonde alpha girl, Cissy (Lilly Englert). On the outcast side we have bespectacled math nerd Chadwick (Noah Robbins) and needy, fat Tanya (Annie Funke).

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  • HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW OF Punk Rock

    A punchy and penetrating look at the darker side of school daze

    David Rooney

    November 17, 2014: In a now-classic season-one episode of Absolutely Fabulous, Patsy accompanies Eddy to a senior-year Open Day event at a secondary school, sniffing the air with a dirty smirk as she prowls a corridor. "Sexy smell, isn’t it?" Patsy observes rhetorically. "Takes you back. Testosterone and cheap perfume." That heady aroma of ripe teenage libidos wafts off the stage in waves in Simon Stephens' Punk Rock, a muscular little play that starts out funny and ferocious then reveals its compassion by degrees en route to a tragic and all-too-plausible denouement. The 2009 work has been given a first-rate New York premiere by MCC Theater. Stephens wrote the stage adaptation of another adolescent outsider story, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is currently doing brisk business on Broadway. This earlier play was first seen at the Manchester Royal Exchange, not far from the town of Stockport where it’s set and where the playwright, a former schoolteacher, grew up. What makes Punk Rock so riveting is Stephens' skill at peering beyond the rampaging hormones, the dangerous energy and youthful insouciance to illustrate the casual cruelty of adolescence as unease escalates into alienation and horrific violence. The influence of Alan Bennett's The History Boys is undisguised, as is the indebtedness to films like Gus Van Sant's Elephant, Lindsay Anderson’s If…. and perhaps even John Hughes' The Breakfast Club. There’s also an acrid taste of tribal savagery right out of Lord of the Flies. But Stephens' language is very much his own, his pithy dialogue grounded in the naturalistic speech of social realism, with a pared-down, subtly stylized quality that makes it zing.

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  • ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY REVIEW OF Punk Rock

    Punk Rock Review

    Esther Zuckerman

    November 17, 2014: Simon Stephens' Punk Rock—MCC's latest production, now playing at the Lucille Lortel Theater through Dec. 7—chronicles longing, lust, and the evil tendencies of teenagers, seven in total, who hang out in a secluded school library. These sixth form students in Stockport, England have familiar concerns—they want to complete their exams, have sex, get into University, and leave their hometown—but in Stephens' world these stresses turn sinister as the teens succumb to torture and madness. Stephens—whose current Broadway adaptation of Mark Haddon's novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is rightfully experiencing high praise—has created unrealistically hyper-verbal teenagers who possess the power to be unspeakably cruel. Yet the play never makes it clear why these particular students—including Douglas Smith (HBO's Big Love), as the shy, stilted William, and Colby Minifie, as new girl Lilly—keep coming to the library, especially after some of the more horrific abuses inflicted by the school's resident verging-on-psychotic bully (played with over-the-top fervor by Will Pullen).

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  • THEATERMANIA REVIEW OF Punk Rock

    High school has never looked as frightening as it does in Simon Stephens' drama at the Lucille Lortel Theatre

    David Gordon

    November 17, 2014: High school sucks. Dealing with coursework, college preparation, friskiness with girls (or boys)…it's enough to give you a breakdown. But none of us probably had it as bad as the kids in Punk Rock, a 2009 drama by Simon Stephens making its New York debut in a production of MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel. Despite an exceptionally talented acting ensemble of nine, this two-hour drama of teens behaving badly is not much more than an unpleasant experience. Thematically, Punk Rock is reminiscent of several recent theatrical dramas about the anxieties of youth and schooling, namely Alan Bennett's The History Boys and Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's Spring Awakening. But this play is The History Boys on crack. It makes Spring Awakening, both the generation-defining musical and Frank Wedekind's scandalous 1891 source material, look tame. Set in the library of a private school in Stockport, England, Punk Rock concerns a group of students preparing for their mock A-levels (the American equivalent of practice AP tests). As the play begins, the tall, lanky William Carlisle (Douglas Smith) is introducing his new classmate, Lilly Cahill (Colby Minifie), to his fellow students. Among them is Bennett Francis (Will Pullen), a sexually insecure bully prone to name-calling and face-spitting in the direction of the fragile Tanya (Annie Funke) and the intelligent Chadwick (Noah Robbins). Bennett's girlfriend Cissy (Lilly Englert) is a slow-on-the-uptake overachiever who can't keep a secret. Nicholas (Pico Alexander) is a quietly brooding jock who takes a liking to Lilly, even though William has already started planning his future with her.

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