Review: 'Animal Farm' at Theatreworks New Milford

Peyton Owens

Many of us know the story of Animal Farm by George Orwell. It is an powerful and timeless piece that is still taught today in english classes all over the world. Animal Farm was written as an allegory to criticize the Russian government and Joseph Stalin, whose communist agenda had turned into more of a dictatorship, protecting only leaders rather than a system to extend equality to every citizen in Orwell’s eyes. 
Animal Farm is a risky piece to be put as up a play and quite frankly, I don’t believe that risk that the board at Theatreworks took in allowing this production to take the stage paid off. A play like Animal Farm can be interpreted artistically in many different ways, and though I appreciate the fact that Director Kevin Sosbe opted against putting his actors in full animal costumes for this piece, I feel that the show itself was not successful.

This show was a community theatre production through and through. The only exciting part of the show was the very beginning where the actors stand lit behind a red curtain, but it only went downhill from there. After the aesthetically pleasing start, stage veteran John Taylor comes forth with a lengthy and boring speech playing Old Major, the oldest pig whose dream of a human free world sparks the rebellion. I found myself more and more bored through this speech and could hardly concentrate on what the old pig was saying. I was left wondering how that speech would put enough fuel to start a rebellion in the minds of anyone, let alone animals.
Taking over after Old Major’s passing are the other pigs who become greedy and power hungry, leaving all the other animals in the lurch for their own benefit. Viv Berger’s performance as the leader Napoleon was one dimensional and disappointing. Alex Echevarria and Sonnie Osbourne were effective in their roles as Snowball and Squealer but unfortunately, they were not enough to save this show. I was impressed, however, by the two youngest actors in the show who maintained focused and active in their roles during the long and less than rousing monologues in the show. The rest of the show plods along following the events that affect the animals on the farm who are not pigs. It felt like many of the performances in this play were just recitations of lines than acting and could have taken place in a middle school theatre. 

I fully expected this production to be moving and edgy but instead found myself itching to get out of the seat and away from this show within the first ten minutes after the red curtain fell. However, I don’t credit all of this failure to the actors or the director who I’m sure put this show on to the best of their abilities, but to the piece itself. Animal Farm should not be put on as a stage play. The adaptation by Ian Wooldridge is boring and flat.
My last and perhaps biggest problem with Animal Farm was that the director picked this show specifically alluding to our current political climate as a criticism to our current leaders in Washington when Animal Farm was written as an anti-socialist piece, socialism coming under fire very often last year during the election. Using political turmoil to try to sell seats is cheap, but if you’re going to do it, make sure you do a decent job with it.
Animal Farm is closing this weekend with two performances on May 26th and 27th at 8pm. Tickets are $23.00. 


Peyton is currently studying for a B.A in English, just like Avenue Q, at Central Connecticut State University.