Drop What You're Doing and See 'American Idiot' Today

Our theater critic, Thomas Jenkins, caught the touring production of  American Idiot at the Majestic last night. There’s still time to check it out the final two performances today.  $31.50-$66.50, 2pm & 7:30pm Sat, The Majestic Theatre, 224 E Houston, (210) 226-3333, majesticempire.com


            Holy shit—who'd have thunk that one of the best theatrical events in SA this year would blow into town for all of 48 hours? Having seen American Idiot in New York a few years ago, I wondered how such a complicated production could survive the rigors of the road: Christine Jones and Darrel Maloney's high-wattage set design seems to beg for disaster (indeed, at least one monitor went on the fritz on opening night), and the large cast must be a huge headache for the tour manager. But damn, they pulled it off just beautifully, before an enthusiastic crowd of Majestic regulars and Green Day, um, non-regulars. (Indeed, it was the weirdest mix of theater-goers I've seen in SA in a long, long time.) An expanded version of Green Day's concept album of 2004, American Idiot is a non-stop aural and visual assault inspired by the darkest years of the Bush-Cheney duumvirate: indeed, one of the expected pleasures (or pains) of the evening is a video montage of everything that went wrong 10 years ago. (Recall, for instance, the twin horrors of Abu Ghraib and “Mission Accomplished”—to say nothing of other traumatizing images that I've already repressed. And it's only been 12 hours.) As a story, American Idiot isn't much: it's basically a Millennial version of Hair, as a trio of three high-school friends pursue radically different paths through modern America. One chum is trapped in a crummy relationship; another shuffles off to war; the third discovers hedonism and the highest highs (and lowest lows) of the drug culture. But the meager story really isn't the point: this is far closer to sheer spectacle, aided by a loud, tight band, and especially by Steven Hoggett's terrific choreography, which captures the anarchic, punk energy of Green Day while adding some surprising visual flourishes. (My favorite? A sort of slow-motion ballet involving drug paraphernalia and elastic tourniquets. It's hard to explain, but it's definitely not The Nutcracker.) The male leads are strong and energetic—Jared Nespute, Dan Tracy and Casey O'Farrell—while Olivia Puckett is the stand-out among the woefully underwritten female roles. (I mean, one of the female characters is actually called “Whatshername.” I begrudgingly admire the narrative honesty of that.) American Idiot ain't going to be for everyone: it's less a traditional musical than an anti-Bush, anti-Establishment rock fantasia. But it charges through its 100 minutes with verve and conviction, and even concludes with a (lovely) multi-guitar version of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” There are only two more performances in San Antonio—2pm and 7.30pm today (Saturday)—so if you want to catch it, you have to act soon. —Thomas Jenkins 
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