Saturday, September 14, 2019

1984—Artists Rep (at Imago)—SE Portland

       “I Have Met the Enemy…”

    This cautionary tale, by George Orwell, is adapted for the stage by Robert Icke & Duncan Macmillan and directed by Damaso Rodriguez.  It is playing at the Imago space, 17 SE 8th Ave. (off Burnside), through October 6th.  For more information, go to their site at

    “…and the Enemy is Us!”  A perfect quote to reflect the theme of this story.  Another quote that comes to mind is, “In a World without [Love], it is better to be Dead!”  This grim prophesy, of a possible future, did not come true in 1984 but we seem to be edging in that direction now.  We are becoming slaves to that all-powerful god, Technology, and there seems little that can be done to stop it from engulfing our very being.
    An old joke goes like this:  Scientists from every country in the world decided to create a super-computer, and so they agreed to connect all of these governments’ computers to one source.  When finished with this union, the first question they put to the monolith was, “Is there a God?”  After a brief moment, the mechanical monster replied, “There is Now!”  And so, folks, meet our current Future….

    In this tale, an Everyman character is doing the unforgivable by wondering, dreaming, asking questions and not following the path of all good lemmings, I mean, citizens, of his country.  Winston Smith (Chris Harder) is striving to find his identity in this bleak world of Big Brother, where Everything & Everyone is monitored.  His job is to delete people from history books and records, those that Big Brother finds an enemy of the Collective.

    There is one place, an antiques shop, run by an old man, Charrington (Michael Mendelson), where relics of the past are kept.  He also meets a girl, Julia (Claire Rigsby), and they strike up a romantic relationship (also not allowed).  He also discovers an Underground, anti-government movement and is welcomed into their pack by a member of the upper realms of the secret police, the knowledgeable, O’Brien (Allen Nause).  But through his journey, one is always curious as to what is Real and what Imagined?  The outcome may be somewhat predictable but is also a dire warning as to the Fate of Mankind if we continue to have those in power think and speak for us.  Personal Choice is always within our grasp, so we must choose wisely…our very Existence depends on it!

    There have been a couple of good films on this story, one with Edmund O’Brien and Michael Redgrave and the other with John Hurt and Richard Burton.  Also, worth seeing are flicks of similar themes in Soylent Green, Logan’s Run, The Time Machine, Kafka’s The Trial, Invasion of the Body Snatchers & Invaders from Mars (both 50’s versions of these two) et. al.  Heed well these prophets, as well as our own Past…incarceration of Native Americans, Japanese American. African Americans…as well as the Crusades in Europe and the Nazis of Germany, et. al.  As a Race, we seem to be easily manipulated, so we must be vigilant.

    Rodriguez has done an amazing job of presenting this play on a rather sparse setting, but you never lose the sense of the story.  And he has the perfect cast.  Harder is a true example of an Everyman, Nause is wonderful as the glib O’Brien, Rigsby is intriguing as the love interest and Mendelson is (as always) innovative and compelling as perhaps the one holdout for the “good ole days.”  The rest of the players fill out the bleak tapestry beautifully.

    I highly recommend this play but, be aware, it does have some unsettling images, which may not be for everybody.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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