Too clever by half

Pub date September 23, 2009
WriterRobert Avila
SectionArts & CultureSectionStage

“>THEATER REVIEW With a notable streak of successful New York–bound liftoffs and landings — for everything from solo shows (Bridge & Tunnel) to unconventional musicals (Passing Strange) — it’s fair to call Berkeley Rep the regional NASA to Broadway’s firmament. It therefore seemed more savvy than surprising that the Rep took on staging Green Day’s humongous hit concept album, American Idiot, as a musical. Given the attention-grabbing concept-squared, the built-in youth market, the local angle, and the precedent (and writer-director Michael Mayer) borrowed from Spring Awakening — the faux-punk teen-angst Tony-winner of 2007 — American Idiot the musical must have been something of a no-brainer.

And sure enough, there are no brains in this show, just lots of songs and outfits and group dancing and mild thrashing and writhing around amid high-grade eye candy. It lasts 85 minutes, or an eternity, I’m not sure which came first. I wasn’t expecting much, having not cared for the hollow gestures in Spring Awakening, but I got even less. Shot out of the circus canon of commercial instinct, the stage version of Green Day’s album is as tarted up and vapid as they come. It will do the band and the Rep no harm, but anyone who actually takes their theater seriously or, yeah, even rebellion against a body-and-soul–smashing capitalist machine will be, uh, let’s say, disappointed. The gestures of rebellion here — thoroughly watered down and washed away by a flood of sentimentality, admittedly derived largely from the album itself — are worthy of any of the more slick corporate advertising campaigns. Meanwhile, a vague storyline of redemptive dissolution and lost love preens around a loser-hero and two distant and less central buddies, but it’s all faded imprints of a million things you’ve seen before.


Through Nov. 1

Check Web site for schedule, $16-$95

Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison, Berk