By Elizabeth Gracen:
There is nothing better than a date night dinner and theatre outing with an old friend to catch up on life and discuss the trials and tribulations of gently nudging our Gen Z fledglings out of the nest and into college. So much to catch up on, so little time to wonder at how quickly the days have passed and how anxious our children are to step into adulthood.
Having worked on The Gen Z Collective for six years now, I am well aware of the generation’s understandable trepidation about the future. They are in need of direction, good leaders, and the truth. What will the world look like 10 years from now? Will our leaders help us facilitate the necessary changes to protect the planet? Will the current trend of “alternative facts” continue until it is impossible to discern the truth? And in the end . . . who is to be trusted?
Maybe it wasn’t exactly the lightest dinner conversation, but it was a perfect prelude to see aNoise Within’s new production of George Orwell’s prescient work, Animal Farm, which runs until October 2 in Pasadena, CA. Celebrating their 31st season, aNoiseWithin boldly presents a powerful production that does not shy away from depicting the fragility of democracy and the ever-present greed that fuels authoritarianism.
Published in 1945 as an allegorical novella, Animal Farm has now been adapted numerous times for stage and screen, with a recent announcement of an upcoming animated version directed by the one-and-only Andy Serkis. Animal Farm’s dark “fairy story” is now mandatory reading for school curricula around the United States, the story ever relevant to a world that flirts, and sometimes succumbs, to fascist rule.
The current stage adaptation at aNoiseWithin is based on Sir Peter Hall’s 1982 production, which added musical numbers sung by masked actors depicting pigs, horses, donkeys, goats, chickens, a raven, cats, people, and puppies alike. The company’s excellent venue, the energetically precise direction by Julia Rodriquez- Elliott, the outstanding costume and stage design by Angela Balogh Calin, and a talented, fearless cast bring Orwell’s farmyard fable to life with a fast-paced production that clips along with the help of masterful musicians playing music by Richard Peaslee with lyrics by Adrian Mitchell.
As the animals move from a revolution by collective leadership through the promises of an egalitarian society to the brutal repression and corruption that greed demands, the insidious devices of propaganda, smokescreens, obscured facts, “fake news,” and the horrors of totalitarianism portray the unfortunate truth that history does indeed repeat itself, our lessons never truly learned.
Animal Farm, aNoiseWithin - Photos by Craig Schwartz
The entire cast—lead by Rafael Goldstein as the pig Napolean, Geoff Elliott as Old Major the carthorse, along with Nicole Javier, Jeremy Rabb, Stanley Andres Jackson, Trisha Miller, Deborah Strang, Cassandra Marie Murphy, Philicia Saunders, Bert Emmett, Sedale Treatt Jr.—works with passionate focus and a strong voice to bring Orwell’s warning to the inevitable realization of history’s forever-turning wheel, lessons soon to fade as we struggle to discern the difference between those who promise to protect us and those who betray us in the pursuit of power.