Frank Wedekind’s once-controversial play (it closed after one Broadway performance in 1917 amid charges of obscenity), first performed in Germany in 1906, is riveting under lead writer Evan Drane’s direction of a new translation and adaptation by the Los Angeles Theater Ensemble. Set in 1890 in a rural German town, Spring’s Awakening focuses on three teenagers’ attempts to cope with adolescent yearnings and desires, including homosexuality, masturbation, sadism and suicidal ideation. Fourteen-year-old Wendla (Eleanor Van Hest) still believes that the stork brings babies, and her mother (Morgan Early) refuses to enlighten her. Sharing her sexual ignorance is Moritz (Nick McDow), a struggling student who turns to his passionate, more experienced friend Melchior (Luke Bailey) for information. In response, Melchior composes a 20-page document called “On Copulation,” which leads to his expulsion from school. Moritz is also expelled — for poor grades, though — and his deeply felt shame leads to tragedy. The three leads are excellent, as are the many colorful supporting cast members, particularly Jen Bailey as Ilse and Matthew Schueller as Ernst. Drane’s direction is pitch-perfect in capturing the dark humor of the satirical Act 1, as well as striking the right note with the dreadful repercussions that follow in Act 2. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; additional perf Wed., July 23, 8 p.m.; thru July 26. (310) 396-3680, ext. 3. —Sandra Ross

LA Weekly