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Where’s the Punk in this Pitiable Play?

Chris Hoofnagle, adjunct professor of information | April 2, 2010

Many thanks to the administrators of the Berkeley Blog for demoderating the platform. 🙂 Things are going to get more interesting. Let’s start with Bay Area theater. Now, what is this business about the Broadway opening of Green Day’s American Idiot? Both the Journal and the Times have reported on it, and in the process, defamed an entire genre by describing Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong as a “punk” rocker.

This musical, which opened at the Berkeley Rep a few months ago (to an audience that will ovate any performance), was pretty disappointing. The musical is essentially a “buddy movie,” but typically in buddy movies, some great thing is accomplished. It might be some caper or venal activity, but at least one can care about its execution. Not so with this thing. These buddies hardly do anything. They wallow, and while the women in the play are more interesting, the playwright stripped them of identity such that they were mere appendages to the men (one of the women was named “Whatsername;” I don’t think this was ironic). In a momentary respite from appendagehood, one of the women ends her relationship with her manchild, perhaps because he was attached to a couch. I’m really not sure why the relationship ended, because I was adjusting my earplugs in response to the howls of joy emitted from the Berkeley Rep’s audience; they seemed impressed by this action in light of the general atmosphere of torpidity and self-pity.

I think Patrick Healy of the Times is trying to tell us something by closing his article with this description:

In a “ballet of rubber tubing,” as members of Green Day have called the choreography, the lovers tie themselves together with the kind of band that heroin addicts use to tie off body parts when finding a vein to inject. The lyrics declare, “My beating heart belongs to you.”

“To take this scene of Johnny and Whatsername doing heroin and turn it into some of the most beautiful and evocative shapes I’ve ever seen — it was an incredible moment,” said Mr. Dirnt, the Green Day bassist. “Real theater.”

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