|The cast of Dead Poets Society, Jason Sudeikis, right. Photo: Joan Marcus|
By Tom Schulman
Directed by John Doyle
Classic Stage Company
Extended through Dec. 18
By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
A terrific stage adaptation of the film of the same name which starred Robin Williams (written by Tom Schulman adapted from his Oscar-winning screenplay) directed by the excellent John Doyle (Sweeney Todd, The Color Purple). Starring as inspiring teacher John Keating is Jason Sudeikis (a writer and cast member for TV's "Saturday Night Live"). It's 1959 and Keating arrives at Welton Academy, a traditional all-boys school in New England, where he quickly tells his English students to tear out the pompous introductions in their poetry books and start thinking for themselves. Carpe Diem (seize the day), he tells the boys who decide to revive the secret society to which Keating belonged when he was a student at the school: The Dead Poets Society.
The boys sneak off to a nearby cave (expertly created by Lighting and Sound Designers Japhy Weideman and Matt Stine, respectively) to read poems, but also find a a safe place to explore their hopes and passions. The society includes:
- Neil Perry (Thomas Mann), a star student who can't find a way to communicate his desire to pursue a career in the theater with his overbearing father (Stephen Barker Turner)
- Geeky Steven Meeks (Bubba Weiler)
- Knox Overstreet (William Hochman), who pines in unrequited love for Chris (Francesca Carpanini)
- Rebellious Charlie Dalton (Cody Kostro) who pens an unauthorized article in the school paper (and then takes the punishment without giving up the names of his society members)
- Newcomer Todd Anderson (Zane Pais) who stutters, but who finds the ability to express himself through poetry
- Richard Cameron, Steven Meeks, Gerard Pitts,
Keating's untraditional methods soon bring trouble with Headmaster Nolan (David Garrison) for both him and the boys.
What Are the Highlights?
Doyle's staging is perfection. Set Designer Scott Pask provides a backdrop of looming book cases and a large back board, but has the actors use books to create setting. A pile of books on the floor becomes the desk on which students stand for the famous "Captain My Captain) scenes. The action plays to the audiences on all sides of the thrust-style stage on the floor, pulling us into the classroom. Suddenly dialogue is underscored by humming; songs shift mood. "Words and ideas change the world," and "Try never to think about something the same way twice," Keating tells us. Doyle obviously took both pieces of advice to heart and creates a brilliant work of art.
What Are the Lowlights?
A couple of performances weren't as sure, but I saw a preview, so I am willing to bet that rough edges will be smooth post opening.
Dead Poets Society has been extended through Dec. 18 at CSC, 136 East 13th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets: classicstage.org; 212- 352-3101.
Additional Credit: Costume Design by Ann Hould-WardYou might recognizae Sudeikis from his SNL impersoniations of Joe Biden and Mitt Romney.
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Minor language