Days of Rage by Steven Levenson, currently playing Second Stage Theater's Tony Kiser Theater, is a story of a collective that is set to change the world with their revolutionary ideas and intent for a better world. The play begins with Jenny (Lauren Patten) trying to recruit people to join the collective, and more specifically to go to Chicago for a protest. She finds an audience in Hal (J. Alphonse Nicholson) a young black man who works at Sears. Soon after, we meet Jenny's partners in crime, Spence (Mike Faist) and Quinn (Odessa Young), together this trio make up the collective. We learn in time, that the collective was started by Jenny and Spence, who were best friends and decided to drop out of school to give their political views full expression. The collective that was built on sheer passion and rage starts to rock as Hal and Peggy (Tavi Gevinson) get involved with the trio.
It is a well paced show that at times did feel loud, but reflects the energy and intensity of 20 something year old young adults trying to make a political impact. Trip Cullman's direction stands out, especially during the quick paced transitions. Both the set and the movement reflect the urgency and passion of the characters. The cast is stellar and the characters are well drawn out. My personal favorite was Lauren Patten as Jenny. Jenny and Hal are the two characters you feel for the most. While I loved Tavi Gevinson as Peggy, I would have liked to understand the character's motives better. That to me was the only weak point of an otherwise well written and well delivered play.
Days of Rage manages to take you back to the time of the Vietnam war, but more importantly it takes you back to your own youth, the time of your life when you think you can change the world, when you feel you are mightier then the mighty, when your blood boils for revolution. And you are desperate for the world to accept your ideals at any cost.
It reminded me of my own rebellion, and of countless others who either rebelled or wanted to rebel. In the aftermath of our personal revolutions, some of us kept on that path, some meandered and some gave up. And this is true of personal, communal, or social revolutions. If you don't have great leadership and a clarity of purpose, most rebellions at best become a voice for insecurities and desperate desire for attention and at worst land up being misguided escapades.
This to me is the message of Days of Rage. And it is delivered with such gusto and force that you are left asking for more. Days of Rage is as relevant today as it was in the times of Vietnam war, and that is its victory.
(Photo by Joan Marcus)
What the popular press says...
"When the playwright Steven Levenson, then a “bored high school junior,” found himself outside the Supreme Court on a December evening in 2000, it was not because of a passionate interest in the case of Bush v. Gore then being decided or a fondness for demonstrations. “The truth is I had never been to a protest,” he wrote last year in an essay about political engagement. “And it sounded like a good story to tell at school on Monday.” In some ways, Mr. Levenson’s disappointing play Days of Rage, which opened on Tuesday at Second Stage Theater, is that good story, except turned inside out. In this version, callowness has curdled into cynicism, and it isn’t naïveté being mocked. Instead, young radicals who believe themselves to be fighting injustice are shown to be fools — and worse."
Jesse Green for New York Times
"Levenson’s gift (from Seven Minutes in Heaven to Dear Evan Hansen) has always lain in imagining lonely people with hearts a little too sensitive for the rough world, and that particular talent has not deserted him. He has made a wonderful character in Jenny—she has a dozen reasons to leave the movement, and it’s moving to see how much it costs her to hang on—and Patten is tremendous. There’s no vanity in her, no sense of the actor behind the character’s face. In her frank performance, there lies the seed of another, better play."
Helen Shaw for Time Out New York
"Trip Cullman directs an accomplished ensemble, and Faist (so memorable in Dear Evan Hansen) manages to reveal a few genuine moments of commitment to the cause."
Robert Hofler for The Wrap
"There are plenty of stances to take, both critical and favorable, about the young people in the 1960s and '70s who dedicated themselves to social change. But whether they were violent or peaceable, there's little doubting their deeply held views and commitment. So it seems strange that Steven Levenson would choose to have the characters in his new play about that protest era behave as if they were starring in a second-rate sitcom. Although presumably attempting to explore the counterculture and its effects on society, Days of Rage, world-premiering at Second Stage Theatre, mainly trivializes its provocative subject matter."
Frank Scheck for Hollywood Reporter
External links to full reviews from popular press...