Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” was subtitled “A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.” But director Alexandra Spencer-Jones’ pulsing new adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange” — which opened Monday at Off Broadway’s New World Stages — may be the gayest fantasia to hit a New York theater since “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” closed up shop on Broadway half a decade ago.
The all-male cast of nine is an impossibly buff group which resembles a gaggle of post-David Barton Chelsea boys more than Burgess’ gang of nihilistic teenage “droogs” bent on disturbing the social order.
The gang is led by the remarkable Jonno Davies, who has played the role of head-hooligan-turned-Guinea-pig Alex since 2014 in productions worldwide (the show originated in 2011 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival).
Davies strikes a remarkable pose on stage: chest-bumping his mates, performing jumping push-ups, committing unspeakable acts with broken bottles and intoning Burgess’ dialogue — an ad hoc patois based on Russian and vaguely Shakespearean in its effect — with considerable aplomb.
What he doesn’t do is create a rounded character that elicits our empathy.
But that doesn’t seem to be the point in this high-energy production given Spencer-Jones’ focus on sensation above all else — from the hyperactive choreography to a club-ready soundtrack loaded with both old club hits (Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” gets a workout) and guitar-heavy renditions of Alex’s beloved Beethoven.
The rest of the cast triple and quadruple up in multiple roles, bringing the same highly mannered performance style to each. Even when they’re not smooching or groping or wrestling each other on stage, the show cannot seem to escape its innate campiness.
This “A Clockwork Orange” plays like Stanley Kubrick redone as British panto.
For the record: A previous version of this review incorrectly stated that Jonno Davies originated the role of Alex.