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1984 Kavinoky Theatre
Mar 22, 2019, 15:48
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Through April 7
1984 Kavinoky Theatre

By Augustine Warner

When George Orwell wrote the novel “1984,” much of what he created to tell the story of the dictatorship led by Big Brother didn’t exist.
The novel’s mix of surveillance, propaganda and fear relied on the kind of today’s tech on display in the Kavinoky Theatre’s production of the Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan stage version.
That’s the giant computer screen across the back of the Kav stage.
That’s tech people could only dream of when Orwell produced “1984” and “Animal Farm.”
“1984,” is the rush replacement for “To Kill A Mockingbird,” forced when a stereotype Broadway producer screwed over a bunch of smaller theaters by cancelling the deal for the theaters to stage “Mockingbird.”
Amazingly able to use the same cast and get a production ready in weeks, including the visuals on the giant screen, the show works remarkably well, probably because the underlying Orwell material is so current.
During the play, there’s a regime-supporting talk show on the giant screen, reminiscent of a morning talk show so beloved of President Trump.
The key to the plot is a true story, the Soviet government in its early days setting up a fake opposition underground group to smoke out opponents of the new regime and crush them.
Here, a government functionary, Winston (Chris Avery), opposes what’s going on even though his job is to change history by editing the records to remove anything not in keeping with the current lies of Big Brother and his allies in the government.
He must keep changing the records of who the government is at war with, since that keeps changing.
This functionary is even involved in a government scheme to shrink the English language to Newspeak, a vocabulary so small you can’t plot against the government because there are no words to organize opposition.
Winston knows reality in a way few others do.
He gets involved with Julia (Aleks Malejs) who sees the regime as something interfering with her life.
The two get sexually involved and fall under the spell of O’Brien (Patrick Moltane), Winston’s boss and the leader of a secret opposition group run from inside the government’s Deep State.
They even read the secret musings of the man said to be the leader of the underground.
Just like the Soviet group, O’Brien is a trap.
Julia and Winston are arrested and taken to the secret prison of the secret police.
Since the authors of the stage adaptation are British, what happens to Winston is bloody and gory, although slightly disguised.
In the end, he succumbs to the pressure of the torturers.
Let’s see: pervasive counter-terrorism agents, secret prisons, constant propaganda for the government’s statements, endless broadcast communication of government lies.
Sound familiar?
Even with no time to prepare, again it’s the basic material which carries the story.
You should read the book because it’s so predictive.
However, you should also see “1984,” because the production and the acting are very strong and help tell a story reminding us of what’s out there.
Kyle LoConti has the taut “Mockingbird” cast, strong enough to flip to an entirely new show in a different world (maybe) and get it on stage.
This production is based on dominant key roles of Avery, Malejs and Moltane and a lot of effective support, particularly Paul Maisano’s Martin, O’Brien’s key aide.
The Kav is learning how to use that giant screen to tell stories, whether the Greek isles of “Mamma Mia!” or Orwell’s dark tale.
It allows smaller theater companies to tell stories in a way their budgets never would have allowed before.
Here, those images on the screen, both from the theater itself and the work of Brian Milbrand’s video design make a story work in a way traditional stage work couldn’t.
That’s one of the reasons for seeing “1984,” but there is also the story, the cast and the overall production.

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