by GLUT Guest Reviewer T.E. Klunzinger
Some years ago a friend described the book 1984 as “grim, hopeless and depressing,” and guess what, it still is, only now it’s a play (adapted by Michael Gene Sullivan) running at the Williamston Theatre through April 23.
The book you may have (had to) read in school had a somewhat conventional narrative as stuff happens to protagonist Winston Smith who struggles to maintain a semblance of individuality and romance in a society dominated by the all-seeing Big Brother (who may or may not exist) and his Thought Police rooting out thoughtcrimes.
This version essentially collapses the book into one intense, two-hour interrogation of Winston (David Wolber) by four Party members (Tobin Hissong, Curran Jacobs, Robin Lewis-Bedz, Brandy Joe Plambeck) – which may be real, may be Winston’s fevered dream – abetted by The Voice (John Lepard), which becomes progressively more extreme as Winston is ultimately forced to confront his worst fear.
Director Tony Caselli effectively deploys the Party members, soul-less role-players in grey three-piece suits, to the four corners of the stage to bark Winston’s diary back at him, such that we come to understand all too well how he came to be where he is – chained in the middle of an interrogation room equipped with electroshocks.
Wolber’s Winston is all quivering apprehension, afraid of what’s coming next, yet wanting it to happen. We never see him as much more than a battered, bloody collapsing man. (The program gives “Fight” credits, but that’s mostly progressively precise punching of Winston.) It’s always clear that the Party is in control and Winston will not survive as the man we initially encounter. Depressing, indeed.
The forced-perspective set by Kirk Domer is appropriately disorienting and the chipper martial music punctuated by hortatory announcements helps us to become one with the happy people of Oceania.
(It has been noted that 1984 is once again a “hot read” with the advent of the new Administration. But did you ever consider the view that the so-called Media Elite and its supporters, formerly thought to be Mainstream, are now The Resistance dedicated to ferreting out their definition of thoughtcrimes?)