We walk into the theater with just the name of the play reminding us of Kellyanne Conway giving stone-faced smiles while explaining “..we have alternative facts..”. When AstonRep planned this production that might have been in the air. But could they also have known that now we would also be looking at our Facebook news feed for red flags of “fake news” that Putin or similar wants us to see?
For that reason alone, this adaptation by Robert Owens, Wilton E. Hall Jr. & William A. Miles Jr. of George Orwell’s classic novel and the eponym Orwellian will resonate with many. Indeed, at a first matinee performance after the official opening it was a full house!
Prove Your Humanity
If you think you know this story well, you might not find much in this script that enhances your understanding or appreciation for what Orwell’s pen has wrought. This writer has been getting almost daily reminders of Orwell’s work that the decades since reading 1984 in Junior High School had clouded. If you too use a common security program for website development you may be asked to “prove your humanity” by doing simple arithmetic like 2 +2 = 4. “That’s a low bar”, this writer had unwittingly quipped while teaching college students web publishing basics.
Think again, says Orwell!
Thank you to AstonRep Theatre
We all should take time from our daily perseverations of political angst about the weakness in our democracy to make a mental thank you note to Orwell for distilling a tome on propaganda into a classic read. Thanks to AstonRep also for giving us this stage-ready Cliff notes.
Expect to be creeped out and to leave the theater a tad nauseous. The production team should get a lot of the credit for that —for menacing red eye themed visuals (Robert Tobin, Director, Violence Design, Video Design), with disturbing sirens, squeaky rats and other sound effects ( Samantha Barr – Production Manager, Sound Design and Lighting Design). In both the performance space and around you Big Brother’s wisdom shouts from signs that say “Freedom is Slavery”, “Ignorance is Strength”, and “War is Peace”. Thank you also to whomever came up with the life-memorable salute style of Oceania. (No spoiler here. )
Amy Kasper as torturer power fiend O’Brien and Rory Jobst as her sadistic henchman give performances that go a long way in making Orwell’s disturbing message reach into your core. For this writer though, watching the performance unleashed a nagging wonder if much of the acting was lacking or the script per se, with an eventual conclusion it was both. This reviewer perhaps came to see AstonRep with highest bar expectations for top-notch acting set by the troupe’s prior performances. Most audience members will likely not be troubled by this and will likely be better able to take this timely tale more at face value.
Note: an excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Thru October 8
Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM
Sundays at 3:30 pm
The Raven Theatre (West Stage)
6157 North Clark