George Orwell’s famous novel, “1984,” is likely to haunt audiences in AstonRep Theatre Company’s interpretation of the story, now at The Raven Theatre.
The production is powerful and provocative as wonderfully convincing characters transport the audience to the frightening nation of Oceania.
Adapted by Robert Owens, Wilton E. Hall Jr. and William A. Miles Jr. and directed by Robert Tobin, the play mentions and defines Orwell’s phrases such as the famed “Big Brother is watching you.”
Then there is “Newspeak” as the official politically correct language of Oceania, “Crimethink” for thoughts that oppose the government of Big Brother, “Goodthink” that are thoughts approved by the Party and “Doublethink” for the power to simultaneously hold and accept contradictory beliefs in one’s mind.
On that subject of power, the Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language.
The leading character, Winston Smith, is played by Ray Kasper whose amazing talent covers a wide range of emotion. Winston is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London in the land of Oceania.
Everywhere Winston goes, the Party watches him through telescreens. And everywhere he looks, Winston sees the face of the Party’s seemingly supreme leader, Big Brother.
Frustrated by the rigid oppression of the Party which prohibits free thinking and all other expressions of individuality, Winston writes his criminal thoughts in his illegally purchased diary.
He interacts with a beautiful co-worker, Julia, skillfully played by Sarah Lo. Practical and optimistic, Julia becomes Winston’s lover.
The two of them move into a room above a store where they temporarily feel hidden from the watchful eyes of Big Brother. As Winston’s love for Julia progresses, his hatred for the Party grows more intense.
Winston becomes fixated on O’Brien, a mysterious upper class member of the Inner Party, powerfully portrayed by Amy Kasper. Winston believes O’Brien is a secret member of the Brotherhood, the legendary group that works to overthrow the Party.
He finally receives the message that he has been waiting for. O’Brien wants to see him.
Winston and Julia travel to O’Brien’s grand apartment where O’Brien is living a life of luxury. O’Brien sends Winston off with a copy of the manifesto of the Brotherhood which Winston excitedly reads to Julia in their room above the store.
Not to divulge the rest of the play to those unfamiliar with Orwell’s novel, Winston learns the bitter truth about many of the characters. The suffering he endures in the terrifying second act changes him forever.
The remainder of the very talented cast includes the following: Alexandra Bennett, Lauren Demerath, Lorraine Freund, Ian Harris, Rory Jobst, Tim Larson, Nora Lise Ulrey, and Sara Pavlak McGuire.
To quote director Robert Tobin: “. . . the power of ‘1984’ serves best not necessarily as commentary on current events but rather as a warning. Like a preventative medical screening, we need ‘1984’ as warning of what our world could become if we don’t take care of ourselves, our government, and each other.”
Details: ‘1984, an AstonRep Theatre Company production is at The Raven Theatre (West Stage), 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago, through Oct. 8, 2017. For tickets and other information call (773) 828-9129 and visit AstonRep.
Francine Pappadis Friedman