Cruel intentions abound in ion theatre’s production of British playwright Simon Stephens’ Punk Rock, in which bullying, baiting and general nastiness at a northwest English public school lead inevitably to shocking violence. Benjamin Cole, seen in last year’s The Mystery Plays at ion, portrays Bennett, the biggest bully of them all, and his chief target is David Ahmadian’s nihilistic Chadwick. But the most neurotic in the bunch is J. Tyler Jones’ William, behind whose puppy-dog eyes lurks terrible pain and impulse.
Punk Rock is relentless in its darkness. School newcomer Lilly (Lizzie Morse) comes closest to being a sympathetic protagonist, but even she is swallowed up in an adolescent inhumanity that goes way beyond angst. There are no fresh revelations about teendom or meanness, though as with the recurring real-life headlines of mayhem inundating us, we can’t ignore them.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat