The Actor’s Gang / Tim Robbins

Photo © Jean-Louis Darville






Tim Robbins y La Banda han montado una producción sobre 1984, con una adaptación novedosa de Michael Gene Sullivan. El nuevo texto, que se concentra en los elementos más dramáticos de la terrible novela de Orwell, es perfecto para el estilo único de teatro de La Banda. La muy aplaudida dirección es del Ganador de la Medalla de la Academia Tim Robbins, Director Artístico y fundador de La Banda. La obra, de una importancia excepcional, promete ser una experiencia obsesionante de extraordinaria importancia.

The Actor´s Gang

En una época en que el ciberespacio y las ondas que viajan por el aire están llenos de debates sobre bancos de datos universales, seguridad de los gobiernos, vigilancia electrónica y terrorismo patrocinado por los gobiernos, la misión de La Banda de Actores de mostrar a un amplio público teatro socialmente relevante parece salida de un mundo orwelliano revisitado y visto sobre un escenario. El estilo único de La Banda, en esta ocasión dirigida por Tim Robbins, encaja con las demandas multimedia de 1984. La compañía de artistas está disponible para actuar y dirigir talleres y clases magistrales, y para organizar otras actividades por el estilo.

Historia de la Compañía

La Banda de Actores es una de las compañías teatrales más estables de Los Ángeles. Fundada en 1981 por un grupo de artistas renegados, la misión de La Banda es crear obras valientes y originales para la escena, así como interpretaciones atrevidas de los clásicos. Nuestro trabajo es crudo, inmediato, con mentalidad social, fruto de un oficio del más alto nivel artístico.

En el transcurso de nuestros primeros 20 años hemos producido 72 obras y ganado más de 100 premios, recibiendo grandes aclamaciones por nuestras interpretaciones de Shakespeare, Bruchner, Brecha, Moliere, Esquilo, Ibsen y Chejov. Desarrollamos en taller nuevas obras que miran al mundo de hoy a través de un prisma de sátira y cultura popular, con escenografías estridentes, manejando nuevos textos importantes de los escritores más provocadores de hoy día, en relación con temas candentes de nuestro tiempo para todos los públicos de la Nación.

Por medio de coproducciones, la Banda de Actores presentó el estreno en la Costa Oeste de Suburbio de Eric Bogosian con la Compañía de Teatro Namaste, A Huey P. Newton Store de Roger Guenver Smith, Jails, Hospitals, Hip Hop de Danny Hoch con el Grupo del Teatro Central y Medea/Macbeth/Cenicienta con la Compañía de Teatro Cornerstone. La Banda de Actores ha hecho giras con producciones representando a los Estados Unidos en el Festival de Edimburgo y en el Teatro Público de Nueva Cork con Carnage, A Comedy, con El enfermo imaginario en el Festival Rushmore de Nueva York, y en 2001 Bat Boy, A Musical desarrollada por La Banda ganó el premio Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics al mejor nuevo musical Off-Broadway en Nueva York. El Embedded de Tim Robbins que se estrenó en Los Ángeles y giró por todo el país, también estuvo largo tiempo en Nueva York (en el Teatro Público) y en Londres, tras haber sido filmado para el Festival Internacional de Cine de Venecia y transmitido por televisión en USA. La temporada pasada, la muy aplaudida Self Defense ha merecido tres Premios de la Semana de Los Ángeles.


The LA Weekly

Grainy indirect lighting, flat-black walls and an industrial stamped-steel floor pit firmly place the latest Actors’ Gang play in the world of 1984. Rather than being a story set in a West Hollywood bar 22 years ago, though, this is Michael Gene Sullivan’s adaptation of George Orwell’s novel about a totalitarian tomorrow ruled by an enigmatic leader named Big Brother. Sullivan has boiled down the book’s 300 pages to a scant 100 minutes, culling the story’s political essentials while retaining the melancholy whimsy of its hero’s dream life. Gone are Orwell’s London setting and overt anti-Stalinist satire, replaced by a more recognizable landscape of social conformity and political fear that mischievously suggests America in the age of W. Party members address one another as «citizen,» not «comrade,» and their superstate, Oceania, is frequently referred to as the «homeland.»

Sullivan begins the story two-thirds into the book, with Winston Smith (Brent Hinkley) already a prisoner of the Thought Police, confessing both his forbidden love for a young woman, Julia (Kaili Hollister), and the couple’s allegiance to an underground movement committed to overthrowing Big Brother. As time shuttles between present and flashback, the stage remains the same: The ragged and bruised Smith is manacled to the pit of an interrogation room, disembodied voices ask questions and four Party members (Hollister, Brian T. Finney, V.J. Foster and Steven M. Porter) alternately abuse Winston and become characters re-enacting moments from his confession.

We follow Winston as he participates in a frenzied moment of xenophobia and warmongering known as Two Minutes Hate, experiences nostalgia for an unknown past inside a junk shop, rebels through sex and gains enlightenment through a forbidden book. Hinkley is just the right person to play Winston, an actor whose Everyman demeanor allows us to track the life of an everyday «Smith» beyond the interrogation chamber’s confines. The play’s climax occurs when Winston is literally confronted face-to-face with his worst terror, and Hinkley (aided by a truly great prop) helps make it one of the most harrowing moments seen on a local stage.

Director Tim Robbins’ production is decidedly low-tech – suspended rectangles suggest the invasive telescreens that peep into, and eavesdrop on, Winston’s world, but no images flicker across them. Instead, Robbins relies upon the energy of his cast, and the bleak milieu conjured by scenic designers Richard Hoover and Sibyl Wickersheimer, gloomily lit by Bosco Flanagan and sharply accented by David Robbins’ jarring sound, to communicate 1984’s meaning.

Orwell’s novel has said different things to different people over the years. By the Cold War’s early light, the book was immediately taken as an attack on Soviet-style communism; read more closely between the lines, though, Orwell seemed to be telling liberals that playing with socialism was all very good fun until someone lost an eye. Over time, the eponymous year became a metaphor for repressive (or simply overbearing) government, politically correct speech and regimentation. Much of the book can even be taken as an elegy for the simple pleasures of Edwardian England.

Sullivan touches many of these bases, while Robbins’ breakneck orchestration of the playwright’s staccato, catechismic dialogue moves the setting to a more corporate world, underscored by costumer Allison Leach’s replacement of Party members’ blue overalls with identical gray business suits. Winston’s chief confessor, O’Brien (Keythe Farley in a supremely menacing turn), an Inner Party member who is set apart from the others by his red tie, is nothing if not a company executive or human-resources director skilled in the use of positive thinking. This slight shift of emphasis works because, apart from its political observations, 1984 was also very much a British office lampoon, and its characters, with their thwarted ambitions and petty territorial claims, are familiar to readers of countless novels from The Tin Men to Bridget Jones’ Diary.

However, Sullivan’s habit of having the Party members who interrogate and sometimes beat Winston occasionally argue among themselves undercuts the notion that Orwell’s ruling elite is hardwired into the psychology of fanatical certainty called doublethink. Their mild equivocations offer a glimmer of hope in a story that is supposed to be about a world without hope. You can’t maintain all that boot-stamping-on-a-human-face-forever stuff when Winston’s tormentors betray moments of doubt and paranoia.

Although a sublime current of nostalgia courses through 1984 (the evocations of Winston’s childhood, with its rainy-day games of Snakes and Ladders, are as sentimental as any that Fellini committed to film), treachery remains the key to Orwell’s indictment of the 20th century. It’s not enough that Winston is arrested by a policeman he trusts to be a kindly old shopkeeper, interrogated by a superior he believed was a co-conspirator, or that he ultimately denounces Julia. In Winston’s brave new world, even the weather is a traitor, along with his own body and the English language – including its nursery rhymes.

Betrayal was no abstraction for Orwell. He had seen the Spanish Civil War’s ideals cynically perverted by Moscow-trained Communists and witnessed, with the Stalin-Hitler pact, the 180-degree turn in the British party’s line toward fascism. (In one scene that Sullivan retains from Orwell’s novel, Winston attends a war rally, the name of whose reviled enemy changes halfway through the speeches: «The speaker had switched from one line to the other actually in mid-sentence, not only without a pause, but without even breaking the syntax.’)

We forget that what made 1984 frightening at the time of its publication was not Orwell’s far-fetched prediction of a totalitarian elite forever frozen into power. It terrified because it presumed to describe 1948 – the year of the book’s writing – as though it were ancient, inalterable history. Even still, so much of Orwell’s vision of the political future, from the strangulation of language to the end of privacy, has come to pass, though mostly with our hearty consent.

By far the most disturbing parallel has been our game acceptance of never-ending war and expedient torture – we seem to be thoroughly at peace with these concepts as long as we have enough creature comforts. Today, opinion polls show that Americans demand that there be more public surveillance cameras and are quite agreeable to having their reading and entertainment habits monitored by police agencies. (We don’t mind having our phones tapped, so long as we have a choice of downloadable ring tones.)

It may be argued that Orwell erred by not predicting our lusty embrace of a life of reduced freedoms, but perhaps not even he was pessimistic enough to believe in such a sad possibility.