American Idiot

  • DUDE RAUNCH Esper, Sands, and Gallagher Jr. pound beer in the 'burbs.

DUDE RAUNCH Esper, Sands, and Gallagher Jr. pound beer in the 'burbs.

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

Rage courses through the Green Day-scored American Idiot and fittingly, this andrenalized gut-punch of a musical is bound to piss you off. Whether you're a Broadway nostalgist longing for middle-of-the-road kitsch, or a sullen teen who vicariously thrills to the show's grimacing, bird-flipping punks, your heart will pound, your pupils will dilate, you will sweat and breathe hard. Such a state is intense but not permanent: Anger is just a drug, after all. But for the 90 minutes that American Idiot has you in its white-knuckle grasp, it will electrify and overwhelm your senses. Here's a musical to thrash to. Goodbye, orchestra pit; hello, mosh pit.

The onstage rock band is not the only sign of American Idiot's freshness; kid-in-a-candy-store director Michael Mayer stages his hyperkinetic rock fable as if it were a riot of meth-addled mall rats. The marvelous Christine Jones's set is part art installation, part protest monument: a couple dozen video monitors embedded in a looming wall covered in newspaper clippings. In this digital dystopia, everything on TV is for sale: the war, our last President and any hope of escaping living death in suburbia. Such a dream drives Johnny (Gallagher Jr) and Tunney (Sands) to the city. Will (Esper) is forced to stay behind, boozing and fuming as his knocked-up girlfriend (Mary Faber) drifts away. Johnny falls in love with Whatsername (Jones) and gets hooked on heroin; Tunney enlists and loses a leg in Iraq. Despitetoo-scanty dialogue between numbers, the storytelling is strong, and the final reunion of these world-wearied buddies is unexpectedly touching.

Mayer and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong have built not just a danceworthy ode to the inchoate rage of the adolescent id; American Idiot is an earnest portrait of young men perched on the edge of adulthood, unsure whether to rescue society or burn it down, to turn soldier or terrorist. Indeed, American Idiot is very much the surly, cynical grandchild of Hair: Countercultural kids drop off the grid and one of them, tragically, joins the Army. But unlike the '60s classic, there's no peace-love-oneness vibe, just a stinging sense that after the anger fades, reality remains.

St. James Theatre. Music by Green Day. Lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong. Book by Michael Mayer, Armstrong. Dir. Mayer. With John Gallagher Jr., Stark Sands, Michael Esper, Rebecca Naomi Jones. 1hr 35mins. No intermission. Buy Tickets