Through October 6|
FARENHEIT 451 Manny Fried Playhouse/Subversive Theatre
By Augustine Warner
Imagine a society where people get all their information from giant wall screens and the police are just a voice call away and books are so actively discouraged they are burned.
When a character tries reading aloud from a book, he barely knows how.
That’s Ray Bradbury’s world of “Farenheit 451,” the temperature at which book paper starts burning.
Bradbury told the story in a novel which was turned into a Francois Truffaut movie and which, in turn, Bradbury wrote a play based on his original novel.
The book came out not too long after George Orwell’s “1984” and riffs on some of the same ideas of a controlled society with only one source of information, written as the Cold War became ever deeper and Churchill’s Iron Curtain formed a wall across Europe.
In this Subversive Theatre production, there are fire men whose jobs involve finding the surviving books and burning them, searching out anyone who might still have ideas on paper which are a threat to the never-identified power structure.
This local fire house is run by Beatty (John Profeta), with an iron fist, although we learn as the play goes along that it’s more complicated than it seems.
The show centers on Guy Montag (Rick Lattimer) and his wife Mildred (Jamie Nablo), both believers in the way things are.
That starts to change when Guy meets his next door neighbor, Clarisse (Colleen Pine).
Guy starts to melt away from his absolute obedience to the system which controls him when his team goes to burn books and finds an elderly woman with her books and she starts the fire herself, giving a little control to her life and end of life.
As Bradbury’s play goes along, we learn submission isn’t absolute, both for Beatty and Guy Montag and Professor Faber (Jack Agugliaro), who is still fighting the new system and trying to uphold the old.
It’s all a depressing tale, buoyed by Profeta and Agugliaro.
Clearly, “Farenheit 451” is prime material for Subversive Theatre, with its progressive orientation.
It has the strong points of production, using Bob Van Valin’s sound and video design, something becoming much more common in local theaters since it can balance low budgets and better help tell stories.
Where Subversive’s “Farenheit 451” is troubled is the usual place, uneven casting.
Profeta has a long history of strong performances and continues that here.
To really make this work, you need strong Montags and directors Gary Earl Ross and Mike Doben don’t get that.
It’s too bad because the basic material is so impressive, especially in these times of “fake news” and social media.
Still, the message of “Farenheit 451” remains viable and it’s worth the visit to the Manny Fried Playhouse.
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