Dressed in provincial clothing and sporting clunky, antiquated German names, the teenager characters waver between indistinguishable members of a group and fiercely asserting their individuality. They are one and unique, with similar mannerisms and doubts but poignant differences in how they choose to express the questions with which they all grapple.
There’s Melchoir, played by Vincent Kempski, the cohort’s hero and collective crush and Wendla, played by Ali Hoxie, Melchoir’s love and bearer of the town’s innocence. Then there’s Moritz, played by Paul Scanlan, sweet and smart and trembling with questions — perhaps the town’s greatest tragedy.
The rawness of this production, however, is both its charm and its point. “Spring Awakening” was first famous for its big-stakes Broadway productions but it rings truer on the Church Street Theatre’s small and simple stage. Even the scale of the performance space seems to echo and aggrandize the characters’ suffocation — where is the space for them to become their own adults?
These characters are bursting with feelings. The wholeheartedness of the actors and the genuineness of the performance translates that teenage melodrama into an aching jolt of growing pains. It’s a poignant reminder of just how much growing up happens when we don’t yet realize we’re in bloom.