REVIEW: ANIMAL FARM at the Arvada Center
by Ryan August
Animal Farm at the Arvada Center was an unexpected treat. I love the text by George Orwell; a true classic piece of allegory we have yet to see replicated in recent history. What I wasn’t expecting was to come to a new understanding of the text due to the brilliant direction and adaptation of this production by Jessica Robblee. The play begins with the cast coming onstage and placing the defining animal costumes on themselves once entering the audience’s view. I loved the subtle way this alludes to the everyman nature of power grabs and political runs.
I felt as though Robblee was telling us not to demonize the individuals and their actions, but to look deeper at politics as a whole and see that this could be anyone attempting a revolution as well as aiming to reap the benefits of there being no authoritarian leader. What was in the original text an introspection of the cold war era Russian rise to totalitarianism from Marx, to Lenin, and finally Stalin, was reimagined into a searing indictment of our modern-day American politics wrought with paradox and hypocrisy. Each time a work of fiction is brought into the 21st century, we must ask ourselves why it was necessary and what new light can be shed by reimagining a text from our past.
There was no mystery at the end of this production why this story is in many ways more relevant to our current state of free market capitalism in this nation than to its inspiring sociopolitical plot. Robblee even shows Napoleon being elected President of the Republic near the end of the play. This is a striking reminder of many politicians passing through our own Capitol in recent years. The acting performances and the casting were an absolute delight to see. This reimagining featuring multiple men of color ultimately having their ideas pillaged by a white leader hit very close to home. The ensemble work of this cast was remarkable. The trust and vulnerability I saw onstage was inspiring and speaks to the nature of the Black Box Repertory Theatre. I can’t wait to see more from these actors as well as this theatre ensemble as a whole.