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Dead Poets Society: Walk Your Own Walk

Dead Poets Society: Walk Your Own Walk
Jason Sudeikis

Jason Sudeikis and cast

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.” It felt like the only way one could start writing about this heart-breaking, gorgeous stage adaptation by the Classic Stage Company of the Dead Poets Society is to begin with the same lines that are spoken at the onset of the meeting of this secret society. Because in essence, this is the lesson to be learned. To strive forward, to find our own voice, to avoid conformity, and most importantly, to make our life extraordinary. At all costs.

Jason Sudeikis

Jason Sudeikis

Jason Sudeikis enters in the exact way he should, whistling, something no other teacher would do at the stuffy Welton Academy, New England, circa 1959. Stepping into the late great Robin Williams’ shoes, he skillfully inhabits the part of John Keating, the inspirational and, some may say, rebel-rousing new teacher and makes it his own instantly.  It’s a daring task he sets before himself, and in Keating’s words, Sudeikis does in fact ‘Seize The Day’ with all the gusto, power, and humor one could imagine. Based on the movie of the same name, playwright Tom Schulman has given Sudeikis the chance to soar.  As Keating, he fires up these private school boys to think outside the box, teaching them the power of poetry, language, passion, courage, and thus, how to grab life by the horns.

Jason Sudeikis

Jason Sudeikis and boys

Not all would agree to this approach. The head of the school, Mr. Nolan, expertly played by David Garrison, believes in a much more old school structured approach. Nolan wants to prepare these boys for college, with a discipline regime very much inside that box of conformity. Mr. Perry, a board member and the controlling father of Neil (a miraculous Thomas Mann), one of the brighter students and board member, (chillingly played by Stephen Barker Turner) agrees; Shakespeare be damned.  Medical School is what is most important.

Dead Poets Society

The Playbill

And then there are the students. Each and every one of these young actors could be singled out for their delicate and intricate work, crafting unique portrayals of boys turning into men before our very eyes. There is barely a false note or phrase uttered by any one of these fine actors (William Hochman as Knox Overstreet; Cody Kostro as Charlie Dalton; Yaron Lotan as Richard Cameron; Mann as Neil Perry; Zane Pais as Todd Anderson; Bubba Weiler as Steven Meeks).  It’s a thrill to see them swoon and expand with such a delicate pure stance.

“But only in their dreams can men be truly free. ‘Twas always thus, and always thus will be.”

The writing is poetic, not surprisingly, as is the direction (John Doyle) and the staging (scenic design: Scott Pask; costume: Ann Hould-Ward; lighting: Japhy Weideman). Anyone who has seen the iconic film knows exactly where this is heading, but the magnificent director, Doyle takes us through with such attention to detail and connection to what these teenage boys are desperately trying to cope with, that one can’t help but hold their breath hoping for a better ending than we know is coming. And when the final moments unfold, as we know they would, we find ourselves shaken to the core. United, we all want to stand up, and join in with those devastated boys to hail Sudeikis (et al.); “oh captain, my captain”. It is very deserving.

Dead Poets Society: Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th St. Until Dec 18th.

Film
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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