BWW Review: 1984 is Bold and Gripping at Monument Theatre
Monument Theatre Company is celebrating its inaugural season with a play that encapsulates so much of its mission. They have entered the Indianapolis theater world to challenge and trouble some of the fixed mindsets that the average theater-goer may have developed. 1984 is the perfect vehicle to bring that goal to life and to create a strong impression on its audiences, leaving more questions than answers.
I have to admit it's been a while since I've read George Orwell's 1984, but the adaptation by Michael Gene Sullivan brought it back in vivid and captivating detail. The premise is simple: a world controlled by one man, Big Brother, and omnipresent telescreens are everywhere to broadcast whatever will keep the populace under his control and to catch anyone who shows a ripple of resistance. What's troubling is that this fictionalized world has far too many parallels with reality. But that is exactly what makes this play so relevant for a modern viewer. It makes you question why a world that was so horrific to its readers has, in many ways, come to fruition.
The main character of Winston Smith is portrayed beautifully by Nathan Thomas. He presents such a touching arch of development in the ways he moves between a shattered, blundering prisoner and a man who has seen another world that could be and wants desperately to wake everyone up to see it, too. What struck me most about his performance was his use of body language. He is quite literally tethered to the ground, but he communicates his state of mind by folding and unfolding his body as he retreats and emerges while his story is told.
Another unique nod should be given to the use of technology throughout the performance, something that is at the core of Monument's mission. The set design, with its naked bulbs, was used so thoughtfully to mimic moments of darkness and illumination in Winston's story. It was also jarring to see the use of cell phones as the telescreens, reading off Big Brother's propaganda of the day.
By the end of this poignant performance, it was clear that each and every one of the cast members had poured more than time and effort into their art. It was a work of labor meant to provoke. And it does provoke its audience to look behind and beyond the telescreens and contemplate how much we truly think for ourselves, how many are drawn in by a ubiquitous mob-mentality, and how complicit we are by standing still as the world becomes an echo of Orwell's imagination.
To be a witness to Monument Theatre Company's provocative and borderline brilliant first production, be sure to purchase tickets and attend between now and August 18th.