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Restaurant lunch highlights:

Art & About: '1984'

1984 blurs lines more relevant today?

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

The GLOB Master's brain is wired for music. It is always a special treat listening to the music that Hippodrome Sound Designer-in-Residence, Amanda Yanes, creates as background music as the play develops in the foreground.

Eerily, as I was exiting down the outside steps of the Hippodrome after the show, I found myself humming the melody of the Paul Brady song, The World Is What You Make It.

In the adaptation of George Orwell's novel, 1864, by playwrite, Andrew White, as interpreted by Hipp Director, Lauren Caldwell, reality is where you find it.

090717hippWINSTONFor 1984's protagonist, Winston (Niall McGinty), reality is turned upside down when he discovers Julia (Maya Handa Naff), workmate and revolutionary sympathizer, and takes her 2-minute hate sessions seriously in this depiction of a dreary world sameness that was once futuristic but could now be considered an alternate reality.

The opening scene of 1984 set the stage nicely for what looked to be the ordinary life of an individual living another day on his personal treadmill to oblivion. Kudos to Hipp Scenic Designer, Mihai Ciupe, for setting a stark environment of nothingness except for a larger than life video screen depicting images of Big Brother and constant utilization of text, words as thought control devices over the minds of the masses.

The large screen in the background of the performance is excellent in moving the story forward almost like a theatrical Greek Chorus. With characters in the foreground living, venting, ignoring, and many times demonstrating their frustration with Big Brother the government looms all happenings in this 'new world'.




Facecrime, doublethink, crimestop, thought crime, hate. . . alternative facts, fake news, deportation. (Oh, excuse me, my realities seem to be colliding.) These are the terms Winston utilizes to fabricate Big Brother's concept of reality.

Compelling, powerful, and riveting would all be good ways to ironically describe Winston, the play's lead character, who is in fact a government employee at the Ministry of Truth. Winston applies his editing skills daily to information that contradicts the government policies. New statements are created to keep citizens mollified with government newspeak. 

Is this sounding too familiar GLOber . . .?

For example in a compelling and inventive usage of the telescreen, we watch Winston feverishly edit a soldier's dispiriting online battlefield interview into a falsely patriotic bromide. He creates this "fake news" on an iPad, adding a touch of contemporary reality to the story.



Catching the audience by surprise spontaneously, out of the blue, whistles go off when an unannounced hate session takes place. Winston and Julia discover each other after one of these 2 minutes of venting their anger.

Technology of today and tomorrow is portrayed cleverly by the Hipp's design staff. Winston plies his trade at the Ministry of Truth with the aid of an Alexa-like voice and outsize computer graphics. Projected images of enemies of the state are deployed to muster the ministry employees into a Pavlovian rage in "2-minute hate" sessions.



Enthusiastic GLOB applause to the Hipp staff and actors and the University of florida Theatre and Dance team for creating a stark, believable environment of literally a drab existence of nothingness.  Sitting in my seat i was there with them. Feelings of hope, a numbness absent of positive outcomes had vanishing replace with a Lord of the Flies reality of desolation and survival.

Pistures really do tell the story and the Hipp techniacal staff has created an imagery of a world of depression, and loneliness free of any color, asnimation, or inspiration.



The hope for me might have been seeing Winston's discovery of a beautiful fellow worker at his work place and watching their subsequent blissful liaisons in a secret trysting.   The lover's find themselves recruited into a resistance movement by a bureaucrat named O'Brien (a stoic V. Craig Heidenreich – portraying all things evil with a blank, knowing look that he, Big Brother, always wins – is winning.)

The play telegraphically covers most of the plot points leading to that ghastly reckoning, though perhaps in some ways that particularly brings circumtanses, situations, realities to mind of America of today.



Playwrite, Andrew White, has created an interesting scenario of a life with dark realities for people who live in a world of nothingness. The fleeting sense of partnering and caring for someone other than yourself becomes a major hope for the characters, and, in my case, the audience, as life with these two 'individuals' becomes duped, deceived, and destroyed for the good of the world's reality.

As an integral scene, for your information, the realistic closing scenes of Winston being brutally tortured might be difficult viewing for some and brought me to the end, desperately seeking and trying to find a positive point in an extremely bleak reality.



This world truly is what you make of it, be it forbidden love or rebellion in an oppressive climate of all-seeing government surveillance. I did become instilled with a hope, I think, will keep us alive in this new age of 'Nobody ever helped me.'

Oops, sorry, I lost my reality again.

Or did I?

Special thanks to Michael A. Eddy's photographic images.  The Hippodrome's production of George Orwell's 1984 continues through September 24 with shows scheduled on various days and times. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more 1984 information.

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