It’s 1985, and Reagan’s “morning in America” is proving to be a jittery hangover. Greed rules Wall Street; nukes chafe in their silos. In a suburban bedroom, two teenage boys discover punk rock’s righteous fury.
Gregory Moss’s “punkplay”—which kicks off Clubbed Thumb’s 2009 Summerworks program—follows pubescent anti-heroes Duck and Mickey through a fraught year, as they tune in, get angry, and grow up hemmed in by Reagan’s America. Skimming the stage on rollerskates, their stumbling suggests both youthful floundering and the era’s uncertainty.
In staccato scenes inspired by punk anthems—the program provides a “track listing”—Moss captures the clammy intensity of adolescent bonding: arousal by contraband porn; battles over band names; preening in search of authenticity. For Duck, punk’s rejections become dogma; for Mickey, they foster freethinking. Lee Savage’s set embodies this metamorphosis, vibrant posters supplanting sterile whiteness.
Moss and director Davis McCallum conjure astonishments. During a Robitussin-induced fantasia, Mickey, egged on by his suddenly loquacious furniture, loses his cherry to a temptress in a Reagan mask—political satire meets Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Later, the duo’s hormonal tussling slips into a slow-dancing lip-lock communicating unspoken love. As the boys, Alex Anfanger and Michael Zegan deftly balance gawkiness and lyricism.
In an eloquent coda, Mickey sheds his rollerskates—grounded at last.