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Spring Awakening 

When: March 2-25 2012

"Slut." What an efficient, filthy-sounding word. Still, it was awfully nice and really quite clever of the great Rush Limbaugh to make it an official buzzword of Women's History Month. It's always bracing to hear the old slurs spoken aloud especially by a corpulent, thrice-divorced spokesman for good taste and common Christian decency. It's a perfect prelude to Spring Awakening.

The year 2012 has been good to throwback Puritanism. Rick Santorum, who once compared gay sex rather imaginatively to hot "man on dog" action, has made a serious bid for the GOP presidential nomination. Tennessee state representative Stacey Campfield goes public with certifiably dangerous misinformation about HIV. It never ends.

The 19th century is never far away. That's exactly what Spring Awakening, the Tony-winning rock musical based on Frank Wedekind's controversial 1892 play, is all about.

Spring Awakening is a period horror story about raging teenage hormones, repression, and the consequences of mistaking ignorance for innocence. Angst-y and anachronistic punk-pop show tunes bend time, effectively bringing Wedekind's 120-year-old teenagers into the 21st century. Nothing says "disaffected youth" like a thrashing ode to the moment when you know "you're fucked" in every sense of the word. Wedekind's play dealt frankly with a lot of things Limbaugh would probably find morally objectionable.

Ironically but not unexpectedly, the original was called "pornographic" and widely banned.

Playhouse on the Square's season has been peppered with musicals that dispense with the expected happy endings. Spring Awakening, currently on stage at the Circuit Playhouse, is the hardest and smartest of them all.

"Spring Awakening" at Circuit Playhouse through March 24th. playhouseonthesquare.org

— Chris Davis

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