When: To Dec. 2
Where: Intrepid Theatre Club ?? (out of five)
George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is one of the towering achievements of 20th-century literature. A scathing attack on totalitarian rule, the novel is cerebral, uncompromising and complex.
And perhaps it's not well suited for stage treatment. Victoria's Giggling Iguana Productions has opened 126.96.36.199., a new adaptation by local playwright David Elendune. The 75-minute play is more of a reaction to the dystopian novel than an attempt to shift the story to theatre.
Unfortunately, Elendune's experiment, perhaps intended as winking homage, does not succeed as intended. 188.8.131.52. is confusing, muddled and just plain eccentric.
Eric Holmgren plays Winston Smith, a low-ranking Party member whose job is, literally, to rewrite history. Smith's task is to alter historical records so they agree with the all-powerful Party's whims. He meets a girl, Julia (Ariel Slack) who shares his contempt for the Party. They embark on an illicit love affair.
The fun evaporates when O'Brien, a Party faithful, discovers what's up. O'Brien (a man in the novel, but here played by Christine Karpiak) tortures Winston, by breaking his will - he finally agrees that two plus two must indeed equal five.
Eledune focuses on two storylines pulled from the novel: the Winston/Julia romance and the torture scenes (which include Julia as well). This, in a way, makes sense; these are more tangible elements, and therefore potentially better suited for theatrical treatment.
The problem is, plucked away from the over-arching story and therefore lacking context, these narratives make little sense.
I've read Nineteen Eighty-Four, and had real difficulty figuring out what was going on. If you haven't read the novel, 184.108.40.206. will seem even more puzzling. The play comes off like a poor man's version of The Prisoner television series, only more disjointed and enigmatic.
It's a shame, really. Holmgren is a good actor. His portrayal of Winston receiving electronic shocks (or something) was tremendously convincing. Yet overall, he's really given little to work with. Slack, playing Julia, is a high-school student who shows real promise as an actress but, again, is confined by the script's limitations.
Elendune's notion of adding a Greek chorus (Randi Edmund-son, Tito Martin-Nemtin) is a good idea. It's practical, as the pair fill - or attempt to fill - gaps in the narrative. And the chorus, wearing military-style uniforms, provides an ominous, Big Brother-y air.
The playwright has added humorous touches that may be intended as a post-modern giggle. There are topical references to cost overruns on the True Bridge (Blue Bridge). And at one point, when Winston reads his love note from Julia, a chorus member quips: "Well, I'll be a monkey's auntie." However, it doesn't really work, perhaps because the play is so muddled.
220.127.116.11. would surely come off better in a larger space with better production values. The show seemed squeezed in this small space; the atmosphere to which it aspires is not achieved. One of the least successful scenes is the infamous sequence in which Winston is terrorized by rats, which threaten to devour his face. In this production, this is represented by a little box with blinking lights. Not good.
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