George Orwell’s Animal Farm was first published in 1945 as a satire on the Russian Revolution. Orwell explained, “I meant the moral to be that revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert and know how to chuck out their leaders as soon as the latter have done their job.” Animal Farm was written, in part, as a warning to citizens of any government that complacency is never a good idea for equality and freedom. This apt story is now adapted to the stage by Ian Wooldridge, produced by Baltimore Center Stage and directed by May Adrales.
“Animal Farm” is not lighthearted fare, but it will make you think and you will be moved.
The play “Animal Farm” opens to stark white-tiled walls with chips and stained with blood — the inside of a factory that is the backdrop of the slaughtering, cruel treatment and starvation of farm animals. The farm animals are first shown working together within the horrible environment for the betterment of Mr. Jones, the owner of the farm. Old Major (a moving Stephanie Weeks) then tells the animals of a dream he had about the animals living free of repression and a world without working hard only for the betterment of man. Old Major inspires the animals to work toward his vision and formulate his main principles into a philosophy called Animalism.
The animals end up defeating Mr. Jones and are left to run the farm on their own; and thus begins Orwell’s lesson on the corruption of power….
My favorite character is Snowball, a sweet but strong boar dedicated to Old Major’s vision and achieving the revolution with inclusion, loyalty, equality and kindness for all. Brendan Titley’s Snowball filled the stage with a quiet power and it was easy for me to blend his costumed head, held in his hand, to see Titley as the stately boar.
Stephanie Weeks as the carthorse Boxer is another actor who is able to blend into her character with ease. I felt Weeks’ devotion to her portrayal of the benevolent and strong horse.
Benjamin the donkey, the oldest animal on the farm, is played by Jonathan Gillard Daly and is the voice of reason. Daly was a pleasure to watch as he was unwavering in his character.
The other actors worked well together, but at times it was difficult for me to suspend belief and see the actors as animals. And I was also surprised to see that none of the principal actors are local.
The lighting, designed by Noele Stollmack, and sound, designed by Nathan A. Roberts and Charles Coes, is astounding in accentuating the direness in which the animals live. The costumes, designed by Izumi Inaba, consist of stained white coveralls and skullcaps, allowing the actors to interchange their animals, but the individual nuances that each costume is said to reflect each type of animal were missed as part of the storytelling.
“Animal Farm” is not lighthearted fare, but it will make you think and you will be moved. Orwell stressed the importance of speaking out when a nation’s core beliefs are being threatened, and, I think, his warning is timely.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Advisory: Adult situations.
“Animal Farm” runs through April 1, 2018, at Baltimore Center Stage. For more information and for tickets, click here.