REVIEW: 1984 at Benchmark Theatre

by Edwin Lobach

Do you like graphic violence, jarring scenes, and intense drama? Then this is your play.

An adaptation of George Orwell’s novel, 1984 follows two minor Party members rebelling against Big Brother in rather the most extreme portrayal imaginable. Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s play begins in quite a discombobulating fashion, which comes full circle by the end, mind you, but it wasn’t until a structured plot formed that I was fully engaged. I liked it…at first. I’ll get to my disengagement further below.

Sean Scrutchins (my favorite) maintained desperation and humanity throughout his portrayal as the protagonist Winston Smith, which really helped keep the audience tied to the play. Similarly, I found Dan O’Neill and Chris Kendall played great characters, maybe even deceptively so. O’Neill, who played O’Brien, fumbled over a few lines, but he powered through and, to his defense, he had some pretty long monologues.

For the life of me, though, I couldn’t figure out the reason behind Julia’s portrayal (Rebecca Buckley). Mind you, Buckley was blocked well and enunciated fine, but she felt so assertive, masculine, nearly robotic. Perhaps that was exactly the direction Neil Truglio and Kate Poling were after, but I couldn’t feel for it.

The scene design (Antonio Amadeo) was phenomenal and I was really impressed by how much they were able to do in such a small space. Also in this production, there are multiple flashing lights and various loud noises (Natalie Murray, John Hauser, Ashley Campbell) which all of it was very intricate. At the beginning it didn’t affect me as much, but by the end the noises seemed to have gotten louder, even to the point of discomfort.

{Preface: In the week leading to opening weekend, there was a blizzard causing power outages.} Now: What completely broke the show for probably everyone in the audience was a slight (but very prolonged) technical malfunction. If you google the play and look at the images, you’ll see that there is a television screen of some sort. Well, during multiple important scenes, the video froze. And it remained frozen. I could see and hear the audience growing impatient, restless. And like I said, it happened multiple times. It killed our engagement. I believe I would have had a much better response to the play had this not happened. I am confident that in the coming shows they will have this issue rectified, which will make this show a great one to see.

And hey, there’s nudity, so…

Big Brother is watching YOU now until April 13th . Find tickets and other information by calling (303) 519-9059 or visiting benchmarktheatre.com.

 

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