VALENCIA — In 1980, when it was first produced at California Institute of the Arts, director / adapter Robert Benedetti's walking tour through Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" might have been a theatrical innovation.
Since then, theater has seen other walking tours, through the politically alive "Tamara," and various weddings and funerals, all of which blasted theater's fourth wall to smithereens. They also had viable dramatic bases.
"Brave New World," like its cousin, George Orwell's "1984," is thinly disguised philosophical forecasting, a la H.G. Wells. While "1984" imagines a totalitarian state, "World" looks forward to a society where pleasure and consumption rule, children are created, not born, and dying is a culmination of life's drugged trip.
As in "1984," when separated from the sociopolitical framework, Huxley's protagonists are a pretty vapid lot. Orwell's Winston Smith is a dolt, and so is Huxley's Bernard. They are both fighting city hall without much effect, but Bernard has an intellectual edge that allows him exile rather than death.
"Brave New World's" real hero, John the Savage, rescued by Bernard from a reservation for those who still adhere to a religion and actually give birth to their children, at least merits some sympathy, as does Lenina, the girl willing to give up all that pleasure and consumption for his love.
But they are still not the seeds from which powerful drama springs.
You don't see much of them in Benedetti's otherwise enjoyable trip--the program calls it a "fun house version of the novel."
While being guided through the maze--probably the best use ever made of CalArts' Modular Theatre--up stairs and through tunnels, you see the nursery where the babies are hypnotically programmed, a "feely" screening room where libidinous citizens watch virtual reality porno films, a group ritual celebrating the drug of choice, "Soma." It's much like a Disneyland ride for adults, except you're walking a lot.
The central figures, because of logistics, are simultaneously played by a number of actors. At the 7:48 p.m. tour last Friday, Anthony Byrnes was Bernard, Dean G. Lemont was John, and Anastasia Klimaszewski was Lenina, and they all did their best to breathe some life and inner thought and emotion into their characters.
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WHERE AND WHEN
What: "Brave New World."
Location: Walt Disney Modular Theatre, California Institute of the Arts, 24700 McBean Parkway, Santa Clarita.
Hours: Various times, beginning at 7:30 tonight and Saturday.
Call: (805) 253-7800.