As one of Hollywood's most outspoken liberal voices, Tim Robbins has never been afraid to shove his political views in people's faces. His brand of activism entails an all-out public assault.
Bringing George Orwell's "1984" to the stage with the Actors' Gang, Robbins uses the classic uber-literary metaphor as a vehicle for political wrath. This revival production, at REDCAT through July 6, knocks subtlety over the head with a baseball bat and takes no prisoners in its scorched-earth campaign against indifference.
Using an adaptation by Michael Gene Sullivan, the production distills Orwell's nightmare allegory to its barest essence. Winston Smith (Cameron Dye) is a political prisoner in a totalitarian state. Through a series of interrogations and torture sessions, he recounts his affair with a female citizen and his involvement with a rebellious breakaway faction.
The play takes place in a monochromatic star chamber where party members (VJ Foster, Brian T. Finney, Kaili Hollister and Steven M. Porter) take turns abusing their captive. The supporting cast also doubles as characters from Winston's life, suggesting that the political and the personal are one and the same, linked in a vicious cycle of retribution and reprisal. As a piece of agit-prop theater, "1984" is unapologetically rude, noisy and full of itself. Robbins directs with a pugnacity that's clearly meant to get on people's nerves: He uses harsh lighting, aggressive sound design and smug caricatures as a way to pump up the aesthetic volume to earsplitting decibels.