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“You may well find pleasurable pain in the discombobulating stage adaptation…But it will be pain of a different order (possibly involving nausea) from the empathetic kind you experience reading Orwell’s ever-engrossing book…There is an ordering intelligence behind this ostensible muddle...The show’s self-sabotaging ambiguity is meant to make us question every version of reality that’s on offer...That nebulousness is the play’s most ingenious aspect, and also its most irritating.” Full Review
"Familiarity tends to work against this honorable but undeniably glum and mostly suspense-less production...The production, while hardly literal-minded...nevertheless feels like a homework assignment from a civics class, replete with a virtual list of study suggestions...In a grim irony, this all makes for the kind of evening that doesn’t so much stimulate thought as shut it down, since the meanings have been so carefully parsed and served up for us." Full Review
“A nerve-jangling adaptation…Using a horror movie vocabulary, the virtuosic production makes the dark implications of out-of-control state power feel urgent and real…Anchoring the play is the romance between Winston and Julia, a rambunctiously vivid Olivia Wilde…The production still ends on a chilling note, one that’s both in keeping with the world Orwell creates while resolutely refusing to send the audience home with an adrenaline rush of hope.” Full Review
“An assault on the senses…And then there is the assault on the soul, with the show depicting the bludgeoning of democracy and plain humanity. It is all hard to take, but then there is no other way to do justice to George Orwell’s landmark novel…The storytelling could baffle those unfamiliar with the book, and a quick refresh before going to the play is helpful…The show doesn’t convincingly bring to life this constant invasion of privacy, but gains traction as soon as the affair is exposed.” Full Review
“While it occasionally feels more like a film than a play and suffers from some strange narrative choices, it still captures the essence of Orwell's message in thrillingly theatrical ways...Icke and MacMillan unveil the exposition in short, often confusing scenes. The inclusion of a book club as a framing device adds to our disorientation. Entire sections are presented via video projected on the set...Despite all of these questionable choices, the resulting play is undeniably riveting." Full Review
“Tough to take — but worth the cost of losing your lunch…It’s the unnerving sound-and-light show that really gets under your skin and burrows, wormlike, into your brain…Winston comes alive, although Sturridge is so wound up he never really surrenders to sex and love…Orwell’s suggestion that Big Brother doesn’t actually exist — that he is, in fact, all of us — really knocks us out.” Full Review
“Intense in a way I’ve never seen on Broadway: It’s gut-churning…This gripping show rewards watching, though…As technology becomes more pervasive and ideology more rigid, it is hard not to drawing associations between Orwell’s horror story and the way we live now. But be warned: ‘1984’ is spikier than you might remember from reading it in high school...What makes this antipropaganda broadside so lastingly compelling is how successfully it resists decaying into propaganda itself.” Full Review
"A skin-crawling, superbly designed adaptation...Violence and fact intermingle to sinister effect. Unlike the naturalistic movie, the visual palette of this hundred-minute distillation is a bookish but canny synthesis of horror movies and European Regietheatrics...Video and disruptive light and sound transitions keep us as disoriented and doubtful of reality as Smith." Full Review
“Astonishing, riveting, and almost literally shocking…Sturridge carries the play…He is well matched by Wilde…Birney gives yet another commanding performance as the grand inquisitor…The world of this ‘1984’ is one which you’re not likely to forget, especially when the action turns wrenching. And this is not, mind you, a production for the sensitive or squeamish…No question, though, that this is a remarkable and unforgettable jolt of high-voltage theatre.” Full Review
"The idea is to makes us as unsettled and unsure as Winston as he faces the monolithic power of Big Brother. That impact is fully revealed in the final section of a harrowing, intermissionless 100 minutes in one of the most realistic depictions of torture I’ve ever seen presented on any stage...The future-historian device which reappears at the end somewhat lessens the shattering impact, but this production remains devastatingly memorable." Full Review
"Certainly an intense and disorienting experience, with a fine cast...Fans of the horror movie genre might find more to appreciate here than theatergoers who have come expecting some special intellectual, emotional or contemporary political illumination...The disorientation that is threaded throughout the production is too often indistinguishable from confusion...It’s almost as if '1984' the play is reflecting the values of the society it depicts–sensation over clarity, screens over thought." Full Review
"This production is like an ice pick aimed at one's nervous system...The authors ingeniously use lighting, sound, and video effects to create the world as seen through the eyes of Winston Smith...Sturridge is a fine Winston...The casting coup of the production is Reed Birney, as O'Brien...It's our bad luck that this production suddenly seems so relevant, but there's an element of good fortune in the skill–and ferocious moral authority–with which it is delivered." Full Review
“Icke and Macmillan compress Orwell's book into 101 briskly paced minutes…Their script and staging…choose to embody the material expressionistically; theatrical devices…tend to dehumanize the characters and situations. This interferes with our ability to empathize with Winston's dilemma, which increasingly seems more metaphorical than real…Reed Birney steals the play with his accustomed nice guy, rational demeanor as he carries out his horrendous duties in the name of the party.” Full Review
“While I can imagine this visceral production being chillingly effective in an intimate venue, I found it distancing and unsatisfying in a Broadway house. It's also a massive, bludgeoning downer. The impressive stagecraft constantly overpowers the human element of the drama — the cast's committed performances notwithstanding…There's a heavy-handedness to the storytelling that makes it just as often numbing as unsettling. Which is not to say the adaptation lacks skill or inventiveness." Full Review
"A multimedia extravaganza...Broadly faithful to the novel, with Orwell’s moral left wholly intact...The continuing applicability of this moral makes it regrettable that '1984' isn’t more theatrically potent than it turns out to be. Some scenes do have tremendous punch...It helps that sound design and lighting are so fine, and two of the performances are equally noteworthy...'1984' would hit home harder were it set not in a sort-of-nowish not-quite-London but in, say, Pyongyang." Full Review
“A streamlined, multimedia-enhanced, unapologetically intense production…Olivia Wilde, making an assured Broadway debut…Orwell’s narrative is followed, but the stage version has a nonlinear and unpredictable flow…This visceral and unpredictable staging is more exciting and effective than this summer’s other politically-oriented productions.” Full Review
"Like being stuck inside an obnoxious video game. Everything is incoherence, violent for the sake of brutality and an assault on all five senses. Despite all the interesting visual gimmicks, this show traps you for well over two hours...As for the acting, Mr. Sturridge, who has been a long-time favorite of mine, is just miscast. Ms. Wilde gives an interesting Broadway debut and Mr. Birney is very creepy." Full Review
“For all its moving set pieces, along with a busy, ear-blasting soundscape, frequent blackouts, blinding lights and live video, it’s strangely unmoving and low-impact. The action meanders and jumps in time, so some familiarity with the story is a must. On the plus side, authors and directors Robert Icke and Duncan MacMillan deserve credit for letting Orwell’s cautionary story speak for itself…All three leads carve out capable but not especially memorable characterizations.” Full Review
“A frequently harrowing adaptation…The show memorably reinvents one of the most terrifying tales of modern times…It lets Orwell speak for himself, though in a distilled version that must make blatantly visual what the novel takes pains to incite in the consciousness…Sturridge has a jittery, piercing appeal…Wilde has a contained abandon that emphasizes Julia’s revolutionary urges without caricature. Birney proves once again to be a master of emotional concealment that works to expose.” Full Review
“My main reaction is disappointment…Sturridge and Birney are riveting…There's also no denying that the stagecraft is impressive. Unfortunately, the stagecraft is so overpowering that it diminishes the human elements that would truly stir us emotionally and rouse our sense of outrage…It's all too over-the-top to feel real and thus respond to emotionally…Overcooked as the stagecraft is, it does make for an often dynamic, punchy 101 minutes.” Full Review
“The members of the cast of ‘1984’ deliver soul-splitting performances that appear to defy the limitations of their craft. They deftly maintain the fragile suspension of disbelief while escorting the audience through a cavern of metacognition and catharsis…The compression of time heightens the urgency of Orwell’s warning and exacerbates the need for action...‘1984’ continues to raise...rich and enduring questions.” Full Review
"The new Broadway version of Orwell's '1984' demonstrates that the story is still relevant to our time even after 68 years, when the line between truth and lies is being blurred every day. However, by attempting to update the story and moving it into the future with a great deal of modern technology, the production dilutes the power of the original feeling of resignation and claustrophobia." Full Review
“Without question, the director-adapters have done their darndest to make the work startlingly theatrical—an area in which they succeed. But for all its gore, sound and fury, most of Sean Spicer’s press conferences are more likely to give you nightmares...In part, the trouble with the play goes back to the source...Orwell’s novel is strong on ideas and short on narrative...The first third of the play is pointedly disorienting and extremely confusing (even if you’ve read the novel recently.)" Full Review
“An assault on the senses, pointedly designed to run over an audience like a tank crushing resistors in its path…To some degree, the strobe lights, gunshots and gore become such a distraction from the story that they threaten to overwhelm its dire message about government run amok…Sturridge and Wilde are very good...I don’t routinely suggest it’s essential for theatergoers to know source material before seeing its adaptations. Here, though, it’s a good idea.” Full Review
"Both Sturridge and Birney give remarkable performances defining the individual against the state. Olivia Wilde excels...The staging has the chilling effect that it is meant to have, and the torture scenes can send shivers down one’s spine...This theatrical version touches the right bases and, with the combination of fine acting all around and the vigorous use of staging technique, it becomes a memorable, terrifying experience that is both emotional and food for thought in today’s world." Full Review
See it if you read the book or saw the movie, are not easily offended or shocked, don't mind extreme behavior.
Don't see it if you have a weak stomach, dislike intense acting, actors talking directly to the audience, or action taking place offstage.
See it if You want to see a relevant piece about the control of government, you've read the book & want to see a stage adaptation. Reed Birney is fab.
Don't see it if You can't handle blood/torture, loud noises, strobe lights. Relies heavily on shock & violence to get the intensity of the book's mindf*ck.
See it if You like form to complement content. You enjoy brilliant direction and staging.
Don't see it if You dislike “downtown”-style theatre. You have no patience for poor dialect work by the lead.
See it if you enjoy the book, you like dystopian futures, you can handle gore, torture, and the harsh disregard of human rights
Don't see it if you're prone to existential crises, gore and torture make you uncomfortable, if you haven't read the book (you'll be a little lost)
See it if You don't mind edgy productions and you like the actors involved.
Don't see it if You love the book. This is one of those modern takes on it that tries to improve what's already perfect. It's also pretty lurid.
See it if You're really into the book or want to see what all the fuss is about with the special effects.
Don't see it if You don't want a confusing, messy and unevenly performed play that's overly obsessed with it's special effects and loses it's actual point.
See it if you enjoy dystopian stories that serve as a warning about how easy it is for a society to loose civil liberties
Don't see it if you are very sensitive to any depiction of physical abuse or torture, or just want to see a feel-good show
See it if you want a political play, boarding on a horror story. Not for the faint of heart. Published 1949 and surprisingly prescient today.
Don't see it if you want a light, fun play. You must be in the mood for a heavy evening.
See it if Incredible concept about our modern world.
Don't see it if This will make you think. You'll leave the Theatre with questions. And that's what theatre's about. Starting a conversation.
See it if You want your mind stimulated.. Read the book first - though the well acted play is not a word for word presentation.
Don't see it if this is a first date. Or if physical and verbal abuse disturb your senses.
See it if You can appreciate and be entertained by an intense drama that is uncomfortable and gory at times. This production was very well done.
Don't see it if Can't handle seeing torture depicted on stage or are sensitive to jarring light/sound effects. Avoid if looking for something light.
See it if you want to see a stage performance of Orwell's book, enjoy a show about a dystopian society
Don't see it if aren't into watching a depressing drama involving torture and violence. Are looking for a feel-good show with a happy ending
See it if you want to see a confrontational piece of theatre
Don't see it if you enjoy escapist entertainment and are not willing to endure long periods of intense visual and audible horror or have guns pointed at you
See it if You are looking for a serious play. It is very tense at the end. Great acting and visual effects.
Don't see it if There is an intense torture scene at the end of the show, if this sort of thing bothers you, then you should pass.
See it if You're politically inclined and want to see how the book, 1984, could be staged. Captures the terror of tyranny.
Don't see it if You don't need any reminders of how dictators maintain their power by fear and violence.