Los Angeles Theater Review: 1984 (Greenway Arts Alliance at the Greenway Court Theatre)

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by Jason Rohrer on November 16, 2016

in Theater-Los Angeles


Watching 1984 live, in a roomful of high school students, my biggest surprise was how long two minutes lasts. I’m a hateful person now, and as a teenager even more so, but during Fairfax High School’s second period this morning, none of us could keep shouting epithets at Emmanuel Goldstein for even a minute. The actors around us kept up a deafening cacophony, well-meshed with Hana S. Kim’s intimidating video design, but we in the house were ultimately overwhelmed, shouted down, our breath stolen by moment. And we were on our feet for it, a position in which I normally do not enjoy theater but which I couldn’t have appreciated seated.


Kate Jopson’s interactive production of Alan Lyddiard’s 2001 adaptation, at the professional Greenway Court Theatre on the Fairfax campus, features a rare ensemble of local talent. It’s by far the best thing I’ve seen at Greenway Court, and an ideal way to introduce young people to adult theater. It closes this weekend. If you’ve got a teenager at home who can stand some strong language and violent imagery, consider the value of a last-minute trip to Fairfax & Melrose.


The audience is segregated at the gate into proles (most of us), outer party, and inner party. The proles use a separate entrance, and only they sing the Oceania anthem, while the outer party raises its hands in salutory submission and repeats catchphrases like “War Is Freedom” and “Ignorance Is Strength.” The inner party takes the front row and doesn’t join in, secure in its foremostness. In a play about power, this brutally efficient gesture does much of the work of a director.


The familiar story of enforced illogic and outlawed morality under oppression is perhaps best experienced inside a mob. This show is harrowing, funny, sexy, brilliantly cast, imaginatively staged, realized by an excellent team of designers including JR Bruce (set and props), Bo Tindell (lights) and Jesse Mandapat (sound and music direction). Jopson’s decision to put live musicians onstage is insufficiently explored, and so is the interactive component, which rather peters out as the show progresses. But the music itself (Lizzie Edwards, violin; Abbie Huxley, guitar) is extremely helpful, and if the production has an energy dip at the usual hour-and-change mark, it picks up again within a minute or two.


One of the finest elements of Lyddiard’s adaptation is an elegant evocation of the passion between doomed lovers Winston and Julia. Jopson adds much, weaving the relationship from dream and event, dropping the mixed-media in favor of traditional theatricality: light, sound, color, movement, a little skin. Randolph Thompson appears perfectly pathetic, Amielynn Abellera ideally jaded; as Julia drags Winston from cold isolation to mad abandon, the human center of the story blossoms as fully as it did for me when I first read the novel, longer ago now than the time between when it was first written and when I sat in Mrs. Wingo’s English Lit.

Greenway Arts Alliance
Greenway Court Theatre
544 N Fairfax (on the campus of Fairfax High School)
Fri and Sat at 8
ends on November 19, 2016
for tickets, call 323.655.7679 or visit Greenway Court

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