Review: "Animal Farm" is More Timely Than Ever in New Adaptation
Adapted by Brandon Walker
Directed by Brandon Walker and Erin Cronican
Presented by The Seeing Place at The Paradise Factory
64 E. 4th St., Manhattan, NYC
February 13-23, 2020
|Laura Clare Browne, Erin Cronican, Brandon Walker. Photo by Russ Rowland|
The hallway leading to the theater door is adorned with with drawings of animal heads in profile, extending the farm beyond the theater space; and upon entering the theater itself, audience members are welcomed to "the meeting" by the actors, who are already in character—talking among themselves, moving on all fours, rolling in the straw strewn over the floor—and who offer seating in sections for cows, hens, and sheep along three of the walls. All of this establishes a sense of immediacy and a lack of boundaries between the audience and the farm that never entirely dissipates. The farm itself is suggested primarily by a small, low platform and some wooden crates and pallets that also function as objects such as pieces of the windmill that the animals labor to build or the podium behind which, after power is centralized, pig Squealer (Laura Clare Browne) dispenses Press-Secretary-esque spin and misinformation.
|Laura Clare Browne, Brandon Walker, Erin |
Cronican, William Ketter. Photo by Russ Rowland
The animals use the chalkboard at the front of the performance area to signal their new way of life with a new name for Manor Farm, Animal Farm, and a list of commandments. A flag and a song that becomes an anthem help too to engender and fortify the kind of "imagined community" that Benedict Anderson has theorized. The naming of a battle and awarding honors in its aftermath also help to create the equivalent of a national mythology. Soon enough, though, we begin to see arguments over fairness, difficulties with mandatory education, and the reduction of idea(l)s to simpler forms, most prominently in the maxim "Four legs good, two legs bad." The pigs begin to act as a ruling class; some animals, such as horse Mollie (Laura Clare Browne) find comfort much more tempting than work; and anti-intellectualism and disinterest in and impatience with long-term planning and vision increase. Even voter apathy has its moment. Eventually, pig Napoleon (Brandon Walker) ends shared governance and replaces it with an emphasis on loyalty and obedience, marking the turning point that will govern everything to come.
|Brandon Walker. Photo by Russ Rowland|
|Erin Cronican. Photo by Russ Rowland|