1984 (Broadway)
Closed 1h 41m
1984 (Broadway)
76

1984 (Broadway) NYC Reviews and Tickets

76%
(627 Reviews)
Positive
78%
Mixed
15%
Negative
7%
Members say
Intense, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Edgy, Absorbing

About the Show

This stage adaptation of George Orwell’s classic novel stars Tony winner Reed Birney, Tony nominee Tom Sturridge, and Olivia Wilde in her Broadway debut. Ages 13 and up only.

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Member Reviews (627)

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60
Ambitious, Disappointing, Intense, Assault on ears and eyes, Timely

See it if you're willing to endure a messy misfire. W/its assault on ears/eyes, 1984 repulses ...and fails to truly engage our emotions.

Don't see it if you have issues w/migraines from flashing lights and painfully loud sounds. Script doesn't tell story well. Tom S's accent annoys. Read more

53
Confusing, Disappointing, Insipid

See it if It misses the boat of Orwell's book.

Don't see it if If you liked the book, nothing like it. Does not go deep enough, director could have done so much more with this play.

Critic Reviews (54)

The New York Times
June 22nd, 2017

“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.”
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Time Out New York
June 22nd, 2017

“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.”
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New York Magazine / Vulture
June 22nd, 2017

“Though it’s a little off-putting to see perhaps 20 percent of a play mediated on a big TV, it’s a legitimate idea for theater-making, inventively and thoughtfully deployed. What’s weak, astonishingly enough, is the script, at least for the first hour…But then comes the arrest, and the whole thing starts to snap together. The torture scenes are visceral, ghastly, and hair-raisingly vivid...Birney is just about perfect in the role.”
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The Hollywood Reporter
June 22nd, 2017

“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."
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Entertainment Weekly
June 22nd, 2017

“‘1984’ doesn’t have the same foreboding effect audiences might expect from a book that’s continually felt eerily prescient for decades. Still, the acting is phenomenal and the wildly innovative production makes for a memorable show…A play doesn’t allow for quite the amount of world-building that can be accomplished in a book, so the full extent of Big Brother’s rule isn’t quite as rich as it is in Orwell’s original work. But the creative team has found new ways to bring the story to life.”
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Variety
June 22nd, 2017

“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.”
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The Wall Street Journal
June 22nd, 2017

"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."
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Deadline
June 22nd, 2017

“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.”
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The Washington Post
June 22nd, 2017

“The effort to freak out the audience is taken to such extremes in the grim production that this ‘1984’ manages nothing so successfully as upstaging Orwell…If you were looking to this Broadway treatment to illuminate further the unsettling absurdity of government running roughshod over common sense, you will be disappointed. Because the reductive inclinations of the adapter-directors here are more in the gothic horror vein than in the service of disruptive political narrative.”
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New York Daily News
June 22nd, 2017

“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.”
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AM New York
June 22nd, 2017

“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.”
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NY1
June 22nd, 2017

"A harrowing stage adaptation...This is not an easy play for us to watch. Icke and Macmillan, who also co-directed, employ disorienting effects: light and sound disruptions mess with our heads, the story seems to jump back and forth in non-linear fashion, and the torture sequence at the end is brutally graphic...There is a very unsettling quality to the performances, and deliberately so...In 2017, '1984' resonates louder than ever."
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Theatermania
June 22nd, 2017

“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."
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Lighting & Sound America
July 12th, 2017

"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."
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Talkin' Broadway
June 22nd, 2017

“A few elements of this adaptation and production seem ill considered…If resetting the story in an ill-defined, non-specific place was done with a view towards making the tale more universal, it actually has the opposite effect in undercutting one of the novel's greatest strengths…But ultimately the day is won by the power of Orwell's words and the high quality of the acting—and, of course, by the story's eerie relevance to current events...An extraordinary production.”
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Broadway News
June 22nd, 2017

"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."
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TheaterScene.net
July 13th, 2017

"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."
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Theater Pizzazz
July 12th, 2017

"This 100-minute ordeal will hold you in its steely grip from the moment you enter the auditorium...Icke’s skilled design team succeeds brilliantly in creating this terrifying world...But this design team does its job too successfully...Ultimately, we see Winston trapped in the most horrific, graphic torture scene I’ve ever seen onstage...You’ll leave shaken, deeply disturbed–and wondering how these prescient collaborators could have foreseen its painful relevance to what’s happening today."
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CurtainUp
July 1st, 2017

“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.”
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Front Row Center
July 7th, 2017

"There are moments in the play '1984' where you will be fascinated—in horrified awe of the brilliance of George Orwell’s prescient vision of the future...There are moments where you will be frustrated, because the show takes on an absurdist tone from time to time and repeated dialogue and scenes seem to be like a needle skipping on a record. But overall, to not see '1984' is thoughtcrime. So important is the philosophy. So relevant is the message."
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Exeunt Magazine
June 22nd, 2017

“With a strong new cast, this multi-media driven project tests both the audience’s tolerance for violence and knowledge of the original text…While we may be accustomed to such violence every day on the news, the graphic approach used here is gratuitously shocking…This is a ‘1984’ that encapsulates why we still read this novel and why we should still speak truth to power.”
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T
September 9th, 2017

“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.”
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New York Theater
June 24th, 2017

"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."
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Broadway Blog
July 5th, 2017

“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.”
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C
June 22nd, 2017

“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.)"
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Newsday
June 22nd, 2017

“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.”
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Times Square Chronicles
July 8th, 2017

"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."
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Village Voice
July 7th, 2017

"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."
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The Huffington Post
June 22nd, 2017

“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.”
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Wolf Entertainment Guide
June 26th, 2017

"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."
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Bloomberg
June 22nd, 2017

“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.”
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Cultural Weekly
June 22nd, 2017

"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."
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Towleroad
June 28th, 2017

"If the production’s otherwise disjointed and muddled storytelling up to that point allows your mind to wander, the deafening bloodbath will certainly jolt you to attention...With a love-in-a-hopeless-place plot as the story’s engine, it’s unfortunate that sparks don’t exactly fly between co-stars Sturridge and Wilde...Sturridge is listless...And though Wilde brings a vigorous energy to her Broadway debut, their tepid affair gives off little steam..It’s Birney who commands the show.”
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Daily Beast
June 23rd, 2017

"Stark, intense, and visually stunning...This un-society is marked, extremely effectively, by characters moving by suspicious rote and by the standout scenic design, lighting and sound effects of the production...What this adaptation does, and which no other adaptation has done until now, is take Orwell’s appendix of the original novel to pose a series of teasing questions about Smith to create an even more haunting denouement than Orwell’s original."
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Financial Times (UK)
June 23rd, 2017

“Sturridge mostly looks lost throughout this performance and displays none of the pained intelligence that John Hurt brought to the role…Icke and MacMillan’s frantic direction and over-reliance on the techniques of physical theatre seem out of sync with the torpid drudgery of life under totalitarianism. Only when they turn to the raw terror of the Thought Police does the dramatic potential of Orwell’s book come to the fore…If only the rest of this ‘1984’ were so disciplined.”
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WNBC
June 22nd, 2017

“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.”
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T
July 18th, 2017

“An inconsistent theatrical adaptation…A confusing framing story…The 101-minute intermissionless play features some very strong moments…But the narrative jumps around too much between the past, the present, and the future and strays too often from the central plot, creating confusion and annoyance. The story’s overall message gets buried in too much stylistic stagecraft. However, its relevance is still terrifyingly apparent”
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DC Metro Theater Arts
July 8th, 2017

"One of the most fascinating items on the Broadway scene...It stands as a powerful and frighteningly relevant, if somewhat fantastical, take on our world...O’Brien, Julia, and Winston could not be in better hands. Reed Birney, Olivia Wilde, and Tom Sturridge play the three central roles impeccably...A multi-cultural epic that uses all its elements to great effect. This piece is hardly 'entertainment,' but it is engrossing, exciting, and interesting at all times. It is pure theatre all the way."
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NJ.com
June 23rd, 2017

"Winston too often comes off as a clueless twerp. Sturridge generates little chemistry opposite Wilde, making it impossible for us to invest in the love story...The result is that significant stretches of this ‘1984’ are plainly boring...Still, the show is something to see, if only to witness the assault-your-senses final section...The novel is a squirm-inducing horror story, and even if this production operates in fits and starts, it understands that horror and finally does it justice."
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The Stage (UK)
June 22nd, 2017

“Icke and Macmillan’s production is structurally and visually daring. The audience is assaulted with piercing sound, blazing light and graphic violence. With live video and projections evoking Big Brother’s spying, the surveillance-themed design chills…The production presents a gripping untrustworthy, unstable environment. Though the discombobulation is intentional, sometimes the direction leaves us struggling to decode incidents in the play.”
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W
June 24th, 2017

"The production is intense and disturbing...The play is ominous, unsettling — and then comes the antiseptic room 101, a chamber of horrors where victims' worst fears come to pass. What happens there is chilling and graphic. It is worse than a horror movie, because it seems both so real and so possible."
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Epoch Times
July 9th, 2017

"For all its power and topicality, the current stage adaptation doesn’t present its message as cleanly as it could...Without question, '1984' is riveting. The work contains emotional twists and turns that at times feel like a punch in the gut. Yet, despite all of this, several creative choices end up defusing the overall effect...While the production is not nearly as powerful as it could have been, it still packs a wallop and is definitely more than worth the price of admission."
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Act Three - The Reviews
June 22nd, 2017

“The technology and video employed was magnificent. The direction was crisp, artistic, and suspenseful— after all you're supposed to be kept off-balance the entire time. The acting, too, had strong moments for each of the three stars…However the story laid bare on a stage had the tendency to be entirely too shocking…My assessment with this play is that it is entirely too graphic and gritty.”
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The Wrap
June 22nd, 2017

“This meta approach makes the production a bit of a slog at first, weighed down by the confusion over the setup and some overly repetitive scenes…The production really begins to kick into gear with the arrival of the great Reed Birney…The gripping final third of this ‘1984’ exploits all the modern possibilities in stagecraft…‘1984’ manages to pump new, discomforting life into the mother of all dystopias. Icke and MacMillan also hit on some home truths that feel all too pertinent.”
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Reflections in the Light
July 4th, 2017

“The story is riveting, not so much for Orwell's plot itself, but because it generates the unpleasant realization for us that this story is not far from reality…Icke and Macmillan make good use of large screens for video projections, so in a way, the audience gets to be Big Brother. In addition sound effects that have people jumping out of their seats and precision lighting combine to create the ability for well-executed time jumps.”
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StageZine
July 17th, 2017

"This is not an enjoyable or intellectually stimulating, intermission-free 101 minutes of theater...The narrative as adapted by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan is simply so disjointed that it’s often puzzling to understand what’s happening, even if one is already familiar with the book’s plot...This '1984' adaptation, while ambitious, fails to 'scare' and instead just disappoints us."
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BroadwaySelect
July 10th, 2017

"Frankly, it isn’t that scary...Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation of George Orwell’s classic is far milder than it could be...Tom Sturridge’s Winston confusedly squints a lot during the first quarter...Olivia Wilde is heartbreaking when her Julia wishes for 'a feeling that’s just yours, one that has nothing to do with them—something of your own'...Most of the time, though, Sturridge and Wilde are asked to act scared...'1984' could be much more scary."
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R
June 22nd, 2017

“A wonderful show for literalists and torture porn aficionados. This ‘1984’ manages to lose some great ideas in a projection-heavy play that hews too closely to the book for its own good. Great performances by Reed Birney and Tom Sturridge cannot save the show, and Olivia Wilde doesn't get a chance to.”
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Z
July 13th, 2017

"Whereas the message of '1984' is as timely as ever, this particular interpretation lacks the visceral impact of the Orwell original...This '1984' is not so much shocking as distasteful. The show certainly involves a lot of stage blood. What it lacks is the novel’s overwhelming sense of dread, the chilling paranoia with which the original story is replete...The production features impressive stagecraft, but most of it serves to distance us from the story rather than envelope us."
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T
August 6th, 2017

"Vividly staged and convincingly well-acted...As an actor, Sturridge is physically highly reactive, his psychological urges speaking through his thin, skeletal physique...Wilde appears vulnerable, evocative, and compassionate, at first...This is a high-octane production. Its use of violence, while not visually graphic in the way cinematic violence can be, is emotionally alarming, as it is charged with the immediacy of being performed live."
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More Than The Play Blog
June 25th, 2017

“Powerful in its structure and use of technology to engage the senses, stimulate the intellect, and evoke emotion. Alarming it its multiple levels of truth and relevance. Brilliant in its scope of vision and precise interpretation…Sturridge and Wilde have a strong connection and chemistry…The encounter and subsequent journey of these characters is gripping, surprising, and unnerving…This production makes us question. George Orwell would be proud. I want to see it again!”
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SusanGranger.com
July 12th, 2017

"Grimly intense...The contemporary parallels are abundantly clear...This wildly innovative production features so much sadistic political torture, punctuated by blinding lights, frequent blackouts and an ear-blasting soundscape that no one under the age of 13 is allowed in the audience...Since nothing in this depressing play is subtle, the audience seems to be numb by the time it concludes."
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M
June 22nd, 2017

"'1984' speaks to our fears of an overreaching government and the elimination of independent thought, then dares to ask what we’re going to do about it...With bright flashing lights and intensely graphic scenes, disturbing inferences and general foreboding, it’s an intense 100 minutes without so much as an intermission for relief...The more confused you feel in the beginning, the more you’re truly entering the world of the play. Let it happen."
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S
June 26th, 2017

"It’s a noisy production in both concept and execution...It becomes impossible to keep track of what is real and what is imagined...There’s something a little, one should pardon the term, oppressive about the insistence with which '1984' jolts you out of your seat, and it’s not helped by the curious flatness of Sturridge’s performance...But just as interrogation subjects wither beneath the lights, the play does smash through your defenses and eventually plants one square in the gut."
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