Packed with gunshots, violent lighting, a lingering spooky base effect which grows to a terrifying rumble, slaughter, and a torture scene, 1984 on Broadway is 100 minutes of gut dropping terror. Based off George Orwell’s 1984 dystopian novel, the play displays a grim world in which all is controlled by an omnipresent government that rules with such supreme force that people’s thoughts are constantly monitored. Those with disloyal thoughts are brutally punished. Showing at the Hudson Theater, discount tickets are available beginning at $35 here.
But what’s to say about the piece aside from a horrifically frightening contextualization of Orwell’s dystopia? For one, it beckons audiences to contemplate the absence of freedom of speech and expression. Also, because theater is experiential, audiences enter this chilling world in which people are tortured for thought crimes. This combination of contemplation and experience evokes a sobering discourse of freedom and government. On this, I argue the play fell short of its capability and my expectation.
The relevance of the extreme scenarios as comparative thought experiments is undoubtable. However, my expectation of 1984, as I would assume many others’, was that the dystopic play would offer discourse to current anxiety in global and American politics. In a time when people feel their government has run amok, that media can be infiltrated, and that digitalized information can be surveyed, a play such as 1984 can offer a voice of empowerment and positivity rather one of fright and hopelessness. Because the book and film is bleak, such a play could’ve offered a more positive narrative with a contrasting display of hope and resilience at a time when people most need it.
Conclusively, the play does an outstanding job drawing its audience into the horrors and extremism of Orwell’s 1984. Unfortunately, it does little else.