ANIMAL FARM

Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum
Los Angeles

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Critics LemonMeter

88%

How do lies become truths? This brilliant satire about the corrupting influence of power charts the fall of idealism and the rise of tyranny after the animals of Manor Farm rise up against their human owner in a struggle for rights and equality. Originally produced by Britain’s National Theatre, Peter Hall’s stage adaptation of Orwell’s classic novel features music by Richard Peaslee and lyrics by Adrian Mitchell.

Theatricum Botanicum has been named “One of the 50 Coolest Places in Los Angeles” by Buzz magazine, “One of Southern California’s most beguiling theater experiences” by Sunset magazine, and “Best Theater in the Woods” by the LA Weekly. The enchantment of a midsummer night at Theatricum Botanicum [makes it] crystal clear why audiences have been driving up into the hills since Theatricum’s maiden season way back in 1973. Summer Shakespeare doesn’t get any better than this,” writes StageSceneLA. Says Los Angeles magazine, “The amphitheater feels like a Lilliputian Hollywood Bowl, with pre-show picnics and puffy seat cushions, yet we were close enough to see the stitching on the performers costumes. Grab a blanket and a bottle and head for the hills.”

The amphitheater is terraced into the hillside, so audience members are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating. Patrons are welcome to arrive early and picnic before a performance.

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290; $10-$38.50; (310) 455-3723; www.theatricum.com

 

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"ANIMAL FARM, Orwell's brilliant political satire about the corrupting influence of power, charts the fall of idealism and the rise of tyranny after the animals of Manor Farm rise up against their oppressive human owner in a struggle for rights, equality, gaining the right to make their own choices on how to live their lives. BWW Review: George Orwell's ANIMAL FARM Speaks Directly to the World's Current Political TurmoilOnstage, the story is read by two children, the girl (Sierra Rose Friday) and boy (Shane McDermott), keeping the audience informed as to the action taking place or what has gone on off stage leading to that particular scene. It all begins as the animals, led by Snowball, an idealistic pig, take over the farm from Mr. Jones. Their plan goes well at first; all the animals are equal and content. But eventually, several of the other pigs, led by Napoleon and Squealer, yield to the lure of power and start to make decisions that serve their own interests best, eventually leading them to proclaim that some animals are more equal than others. The quote, "absolute power corrupts absolutely," certainly applies to Orwell's masterful work."

"In a play such as this, proper presentation of sound and visuals — to enable the suspension of disbelief to cogitate on sociopolitical insights spoken by talking/singing animals — is a delicate task. Suffice it to say, the success of this part play, part musical is attributable to not only the musical direction of Marshall McDaniel and the various musicians – including a violinist, guitarist, and a drummer – but the realistic animal costumes and animal-like movements of the actors. More than just incorporating pig snouts and fitting the actors with prop animal heads, costumer Vicki Conrad and animal specialist Lexi Pearl have assisted in the seamless flow of the show, insofar that there is a complete investment in the narrative. Of course, no matter how talented the behind-the-scenes personnel are, the actors must do their part to deliver — and they certainly do in this production."

"A unique adaptation, but don’t let the whimsy and comedy mislead you, the dire message comes across."

"I really do thank Theatricum Botanicum for bringing us this classic story, which should make everyone who sees it think about the situation in the world today."

"The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum's rendition is equal parts didacticism and entertainment, a smart and uncomfortably timely vehicle to jolly up a hot summer evening under the stars in Topanga Canyon. Step aside, Shakespeare. A different kind of political beast joins the Theatricum repertory."

"AN INSPIRED CHOICE… an absolute treat… masterfully directed…. An ensemble piece with all the actors strong and totally convincing as sheep, horse, pigs, dogs, cows, chickens, a cat and a donkey."

"It is thoroughly engaging, highly creative, musically charming, and overall a profound educational excursion to “actually existing socialism” in “rural England” “once upon a time."

"Director Ellen Geer masterfully helms ANIMAL FARM with the able assistance of an enthusiastic and skilled cast. This is a production which must tip its hat to costume designer Vicki Conrad, wardrobe supervisor Beth Glasner, and properties master Ernest McDaniel. Each competent specialist manages to bring the fantastic to the stage with seeming effortlessness. Animal movement coordinator Lexi Pearl adds to the overall ambiance with an eye to making Orwell’s animals seem all too human."

"This play, along with the company’s Shakespeare productions (this season, The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) along with other contemporary productions, runs through October 1, 2017, and I suggest that any interested reader make the trip...to rediscover what real theater is all about."

"As political satire, Animal Farm works well, but there is little in the way of genuine emotional content. The death of the stalwart stallion, Boxer (Max Lawrence), means to be touching, but, in its inevitability, fails to move."

"Animal Farm, a fanciful tale by George Orwell, warns that idealistic systems of self-governance face usurpation by unscrupulous, power-grabbing oligarchs through clever manipulations of the truth (alternative facts, anyone?). Director Ellen Geer’s cheerful production is anything but heavy-handed; it's a superb production with a lot of enthusiastic, young players. – Leigh Kennicott"

"Animal Farm never gets old—it is such a simple and powerful way to tell a complex story...so cheers to the Theatricum for keeping it current."

"...add it to your must-see list for the summer...The play is definitely interesting and thought provoking. It makes the viewer realize that there’s a minority of humans who use language to control others, while the majority is often apathetic and unwilling to question authority."

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