It's easy to see what drew Ethan Hawke to Clive, actor-playwright Jonathan Marc Sherman's updated version of the early Bertolt Brecht play Baal, about a young poet who rejects bourgeois convention and engages in a series of passionate love affairs and even a murder or two. The New Group production, running through March 9 at Off Broadway's Acorn Theatre, has all the elements that would appeal to an artist of Hawke's downtown-leaning temperament. In this modern-day update, the antihero (played by Hawke) is a rock star with spiky silver hair, skinny jeans, and a serious drug addiction. He seduces his producer's wife (Stephanie Janssen) as well as a teenage fan (Zoe Kazan). And he generally wallows in self-absorption, heedless of the increasingly negative effect he has on others.
There are Brechtian touches throughout: songs, noise-making props, actors reciting their own stage directions between snatches of dialogue, and Vincent D'Onfrio committing to a bizarro accent and climbing a ladder with angel's wings on his shoulders. Under Hawke's direction, though, Clive is a rather tedious slog through nihilistic narcissism. C–
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)