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A breakdancing, circus take on 'The Catcher in the Rye'

Inside the mind of a moody teen.
Inside the mind of a moody teen.
Author's personal photos

"HYPERish," playing at The New Victory Theater on 42nd Street through May 18, is a combination break-dancing and circus arts show inspired by themes prevalent in the classic novel, "The Catcher in the Rye," including teen alienation, the perception of "phoniness," and the stifling conformity of fitting in (at one point, a box was placed on stage around a performer. My 10 year old asked, "Would that be a literal metaphor?").

If your child is a fan of the book (as millions around the world are), or if they are perennially wrestling with their own sense of identity (as billions around the world are), you might want to check out "HYPERish" to see if it speaks to them. (My own 14 year old groaned, "Oh, God, not more talk about personal identity.")

However, if you are looking for thrilling performers that will make you gasp at their mastery, The New Vic did it better with their winter production of "Mother Africa."

If you are looking for a subtle message of empowerment that isn't spelled out for you - several times - you would have been better off with their "Knee Deep."

And if you want a sophisticated exploration of difficult topics that both teens and adults wrestle with daily, then their "Measure for Measure" is the way to go.

"HYPERish," on the other hand, features considerably weaker dancing and stunts, as well as interstitials where the cast performs to sound bites by Malcolm X, or acts out "typical teen" ("Why do I have to say 'fine' when asked how are you? Why are all texting emoticons white instead of multiracial?") soul-searching questions and "sell out" dialogue of the kind that "Catcher in the Rye's" Holden Caulfield, speaking from the vast wealth of life experience he'd somehow managed to accumulate in a scant seventeen years, would have labeled "phony" and proceeded to mock. It's like being stuck in the head of a whiny, immature high-schooler who believes he, and he alone, has discovered existential angst (and doesn't know the correct digits of Pi, but thinks that he does).

As a result, "HYPERish" isn't nearly as original or as profound as it thinks it is. Kind of like Holen Caulfield himself.

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