I did not know what I was getting into when I went to see 1984 at the Broad Stage. Like most high school students, I read the Wikipedia page instead of the book. The play was very ambitious (which I appreciated), but went a little too far at times. For example, the show starts with non-linear storytelling and ends with linear storytelling. The non-linear method works to show the effects of Big Brother, but loses some of the story. If you start something one way, I believe you should finish it the same way. I would have loved for the whole show to jump from point to point instead of going linear for the second half, because it would have been more powerful than the ending that was given.
SPOILER ALERT: The ending was pure torture, literally and figuratively. It was a torture scene for 20 minutes. The guy sitting next to me almost vomited. At one point the house lights came up, and the actor was begging (what felt like to the audience) to make Big Brother stop the torture….I think after 10 minutes we got the idea. Throughout the show, an amazing level of multimedia was used, which really drove home the message that “Big Brother is watching you.” Cameras were hidden all over the set, and projected onto a screen what the actors were doing. What if they used that multimedia at the end? Instead of seeing an actor spit blood and bleed out all over the stage, what if they had cameras on the audience the whole time and the end of the show cut to clips of the audience reaction? That would have given us the same feeling without the grotesque imagery. Also, if the show was non-linear we could have seen the torture in the middle of the show and maybe a different scene in the end, like one between the two lovers discussing how to stop Big Brother. That would have been more effective, inspiring, and thought-provoking for the audience.
Great theater can accomplish a lot, but it usually does one of two things. 1. It entertains you to a point where you are transported to a world that makes you forget about your own. 2. It makes you reflect. “What would you do?” is a question that I usually ask myself after a superb theater piece that challenges the audience. 1984 tried. It really did. It made the audience extremely uncomfortable with constant strobe light flashes in the eyes and captured the feeling of the book. It failed though in challenging us to ask ourselves if we would rebel against the government like Winston Smith and Julia did. In a world where the NSA is listening, drones are flying over and watching, and social media and phones let everyone know where we are/what we are doing, that question is a very important one to ask.