“A Clockwork Orange”: The Sociopath Hits the Off Broadway Stage

Anthony Burgess’s groundbreaking 1962 novel, Clockwork Orange, proves as powerful as ever in this critically acclaimed adaptation and off Broadway production.

When I was on a family vacation in London this past February, I was incredibly bummed to discover a stage adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. Anthony Burgess’s searing novel and Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 Oscar-nominated movie have been favorites of mine since college, and I knew any worthy theater incarnation would not be appropriate for my 11-year-old. So, with much regret, I skipped it…only to soon find out that it’s coming to New York City for a four-month limited engagement this fall. 


Set in a dystopian near-future society, A Clockwork Orange chronicles the life of Alex, a charismatic teen sociopath who commits heinous acts of ultraviolence with his droogs. After his cohorts betray him, he goes to prison, where he agrees to undergo a behavior-modification experiment in exchange for a commuted sentence. But trading his free will for freedom isn’t what he bargained for.

This production is the brainchild of Alexandra Spencer-Jones, artistic director of Action to the Word, a theater company specializing in highly charged adaptations of classics. It premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 before embarking on a world tour. It was restaged in the round in London earlier this year, starring an impossibly fit Jonno Davies, and he’s headlining the NYC run, bulging biceps, eyeliner, and all. Distilled into 90 electrifying minutes and featuring an all-male cast, it’s been called visceral, homoerotic, and over the top, with meticulously choreographed violence that is more balletic than bloody. Still, despite the stylized approach and a soundtrack packed with Beethoven (aka, Ludwig Van, Alex’s favorite), this Clockwork Orange, like the movie and book before it, is not for sensitive viewers. 

Why You Should Go: If you’re a fan of the source material, it’s a no-brainer. And even if you couldn’t stomach the graphic film, this interpretation is decidedly less so. 

A Clockwork Orange
New World Stages
340 West 50th Street (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues), Hell’s Kitchen
September 2–January 6, 2018
Tickets start at $59