The play appeals to both fans of the book and those unfamiliar with the story.
Don’t call this propaganda, but the TU Theater Department has done it again. Laura Skoch directs Andrew White’s adaptation of “1984” by George Orwell. I sat in on a dress-rehearsal, and the production proved fantastic.
The adaptation follows the novel’s Winston Smith and his struggles with a dystopian society controlled by a tyrannical regime known as the Party. He meets Julia and starts to fight against the Totalitarian regime by daring to think for himself. He then must face the consequences.
Beginning with the acting, the execution was perfect. The chemistry between Corey Allcorn as Winston and Emma Lucas as Julia felt authentic. I rooted for their relationship with genuine interest. Samantha Potrykus played a convincing O’Brien: intimately terrifying and a fitting symbol for the tyranny of the Party. The director stated she has no qualms is casting characters against their genders. Given Potrykus’s performance, her philosophy works. The ensemble delivered a top-notch performance as well.
As I sat in on a dress rehearsal, I did not receive the full visual power of the set. The set I viewed made for a solid imitation of a concrete bunker, with lighting that made the dark stage look like it was floating in the dark theater. However, the actual performances will also include custom-made backdrops.
“We had to do tons and tons and tons of CGI. We spent five hours shooting underwater,” said Susan Barrett, head of projection design and CGI. The TU-made CGI will provide the setting for the world of Oceania, and the underwater moments will provide a backdrop for the romance scenes.
The plot does not require analysis; George Orwell proved its success almost 70 years ago. The adaptation mostly cut out the world building and descriptions from the book, compensating for it with CGI and other backdrops. Anyone who has not yet read the novel will be able to follow the story without problem. Any fan of the novel should be satisfied as well, as long as they recognize that it is an adaptation and should not be compared too much to the original text.
The director said she chose the play as part of an outreach to local high schools.
“We wanted to find books on the high school reading list. Last year we did Julius Caesar,” said Skoch. She also commented on why “1984” of all the books on the average high school reading list.
“Given last January when we had a strange moment about not knowing what the truth is, some people have been calling it a ‘post-truth era,’” she said. “We are in the day of something called ‘alternative facts,’ so what is truth?”
The political climate where our president is calling the media a liar and vice versa generated a renewed interest in the book. “1984” became a best-selling novel in January 2017, reaching the top of the Amazon bestseller list.
She also commented on the power the play has in showing how people change. “Both on a political level and a personal level, we change so much in our lives.” She said, “How does our past shape who we are in the future?”
The performance resonated with the modern cultural zeitgeist as if it were adapted from a novel written last year. The torture scene haunted me, the love scene melted my heart and the ending is one that will stay with me for a long time. Seeing the performance with the technological enhancements is an experience no one should miss.
The TU Theatre Department performs the play this week, February 22 – 24, at 8 p.m. in Kendall Hall. Tickets may be purchased online at www.myticketoffice.com, by phone at 918-631-2567 or at the Kendall Hall box office on the TU campus. Admission is $15 for adults, $8 for senior citizens and area students and $6 for TU students, faculty and staff.
I strongly urge any student to see this double-plus-good production. Remember, Big Brother is watching. Will you be?