1984 on Broadway

 “Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.

“How will they bring an iconic novel like ‘1984’ to the Broadway stage?” That’s the question I was wondering as I walked into the beautifully renovated Hudson Theater on West 44th Street in Manhattan .

Well, the answer is with a lot of lighting and sound effects.

It certainly is theatrical- though the beginning- with Winston sitting silently while narration is read- made me wonder if it would be.

Tom Sturridge plays Winston, the everyman who becomes our unlikely hero, as he goes uneasily from questioning his sanity to becoming a revolutionary against Big Brother.

Olivia Wilde makes her Broadway debut as Julia, Winston’s lover and accomplice, but Reed Birney, a multiple award-winner for last seasons’ Best Play winner, ‘The Humans’, steals the show as the chilling, autocratic character of O’Brien.

The story zig zags from a fictionalized authoritarian past- maybe– to a future set about 40 years from now and the constant changes reflect the displacement Winston feels as he wonders if his memory of time and events are correct while we, in the audience, are made to wonder if having our memory be correct is even relevant any more in an age when Big Brother rewrites history on a continuing basis. And Winston’s job is to eradicate the history and, therefore, the existence of those The Party declares as enemies of the state.

 photo: Broadway World

Language, and the meaning of words become minimized, people are marginalized and the concept of freedom becomes perverted as The Party tells its comrades what they need to think freedom means.

As Winston gets beaten into submission so do we, in the audience, with shattering sound and blinding lighting effects. And, with no intermission for its one hundred minutes, the effects build with the story so that Winston isn’t alone in feeling constantly jolted- literally- as the play approaches its climax.

This production has been imported from England along with its co-directors and adaptors Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan. But it probably won’t surprise you that some intriguing touches to the book for this Broadway run- including a brief recitation of part of the Declaration of Independence- make it more about President Trump, though he is never named, of course.

Note to listeners: There is a 20+ minute torture scene that had several in the audience gasping and groaning in disgust when Winston spits out his blood. And the show has announced no one under 13 will be admitted to the theater.

While it may not be for the squeamish, it was definitely dramatic and thought provoking and I give ‘1984’ 4 stars out of 5.

Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com. This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”

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