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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Orwell's '1984' Inhabits Alchemist Stage

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Michael Gene Sullivan's adaptation taps into the disturbing universal elements of George Orwell's dystopian classic 1984. The play consists of two extended interrogation scenes separated by an intermission in a vivid Project Empty Space production at the Alchemist Theatre.

Christopher Elst plays Winston, a man who is asked to answer for his personal activities. Party members grill the man on his life events, re-enacting them for him in an effort to get him to understand the error of his ways.

As the play begins, we see Winston is already exhausted. What we are about to watch will define him as an individual. Elst plays the role not defiant so much as resilient. He seeks no more or less than the truth in a heartbreaking, sympathetic role. He's not a hero. He could be any of us.

Party members are played in different temperaments. Jeremy Eineichner is softly imposing as an eager follower of Big Brother. Lean and angry, Clayton Hamburg shows a more aggressive side of that loyalty. Erin Hartman plays a party member perhaps a bit too enthusiastic about displaying the sensual side of Winston's story with a compassionate citizen played by Marcee Doherty. At the center of it all is a striking, chilling performance by Michael Keiley. His is the voice you hear throughout the play. When Keiley appears onstage, Winston's dark reformation is nearly complete. Director David Kaye does an excellent job of ushering the story to a deeply disturbing conclusion.

Project Empty Space's production of George Orwell's 1984 runs through March 17 at the Alchemist Theatre. Visit alchemisttheatre.com for ticket reservations.