by Willard Manus
Michael Gene Sullivan's adaptation of George Orwell's notorious novel 1984 concentrates on the interrogation of Winston Smith (the superb Brent Hinkley) by four ruthless Party Members (Brian T Finney, Kaili Hollister, V J Foster, Steven M Porter) and their boss, O'Brien (Kethe Farley). Winston, suspected of being a subversive (because he believes in love, freedom, peace, the individual rather than the state), is grilled (tortured, really) by these minions of Big Brother, the all-powerful, all-seeing dictator of Oceana.
Big Brother, whose pious pronouncements--"freedom is slavery," "ignorance is strength," "war is peace"--are heard from time to time over a Telescreen, the two-way television found in just about every Oceanan home, wants to make sure "rebels" like Winston are made to conform to the country's totalitarian agenda. Noise (screeching rock music), electric shock (a la Guantanamo) and brain-washing techniques are all used on poor Winston. Sullivan's play piles on the horrors so relentlessly that it becomes something of a trial to sit through two acts of them. A short, taut version of 1984 would have worked better--and been even more powerful. Still, this Actors Gang production (well-directed and -designed by Tim Robbins and Richard Hoover & Sibyl Wickersheimer, respectively) is relevant and moving nonetheless.
Ivy Substation Theatre, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City. Call 310-4264 or visit theactorsgang.com