Big Brother is watching

Orwell's '1984' hits the stage

War is peace.ÿFreedom is slavery.ÿIgnorance is strength. These slogans are familiar to all who have analyzed George Orwell's "1984."

From Orwell's novel has sprung Christopher Gallu's three-act play adaptation, which was presented by the Catalyst Theater Company during the New Play Network's Page to Stage Festival held at the Kennedy Center Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.

The story is of two lovers, Winston and Julia, who hate The Party and the ever-watching eye of Big Brother. Winston, played brilliantly by Michael John Casey during a read-through performance of the adaptation on Sept. 1, longs to learn about the past, which was erased and rewritten by The Party.ÿCasey displays an array of emotions, from indifference and mild dissatisfaction to intense pain and anguish through vivid facial expressions.ÿCasey makes Winston's transformation almost tangible, convincing the audience of his plight, even without the aid of sets and props.ÿ

Casey looked great with actress Irina Koval, who portrayed Julia, Winston's lover who yearns for freedom from the rigidity of the rules and regulations in Oceania, the province in which they both live. Koval and Casey effectively played off both the characters' and each other's contrasting styles.

Winston and Julia attempt to join an underground resistance movement led by Big Brother's archrival, Emanuel Goldstein, in hopes of changing society. Orwell expresses strong anti-totalitarian views in "1984," which is set in a futuristic society where the individual dies slowly and the range of thought becomes more and more narrow.

The most powerful member of the cast was Ralph Cosham, who ruled the stage during the confident and commanding monologues of his character, O'Brien.

Each cast member, clad only in black and without the aid of set, props or lighting, added distinct personality to his or her character.ÿEven the smaller roles, such as Syme, Parsons, Charrington, and the voice of the telescreen were given distinct attributes by an ensemble consisting of Kevin Boggs, Dan Brick, Lynn Steinmetz and Christopher Walker.ÿ The attention to detail paid by the actors of these smaller roles showed how the Party and the society affected different types of citizens.ÿ

Actor Susan Lynskey (Helen Hayes award nominee) directed the talented and cohesive cast, successfully portraying the grim society and emotional story of "1984."

ÿFollowing the performance, the leading players as well as Lynskey and Gallu answered questions and listened to comments from the audience. Generally, those who were familiar with the book made positive comments, while those who were experiencing "1984" for the first time had more questions. Many agreed that with visual aid (sets, costumes, props, lighting) the performances would be even more powerful.

For those who enjoyed the book or find social commentary interesting, Catalyst Theater Company's production of "1984" is a must-see.ÿIt will play from Jan. 24 through Feb. 28 at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 7th St. (two blocks from the Eastern Market Metro station). Admission is $20 for Thursday evening and Saturday matinee shows and $25 for Friday and Saturday evening performances.

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle