Bad Example’s “Fahrenheit 451”
The book is very serious. The play is very earnest; its humor is surely unintentional. The play’s wholesale elisions reduce the book to sloganeering sorts of speeches spoken by allegorical sorts of people who would never evolve on a planet with carbon-based life forms.
The point of the show is to informs us that books are good, that burning them is bad, and that television is also bad and will turn us into soulless drones. (I wonder whether the play was written as a school show for National Book Week, or whatever it was called, in the 1960s. It has that heavy-handed moral tone.) The adapter of this vintage dramatic transcription, which comprises dozens of very short and awkwardly paced scenes, is uncredited in the program, which is just as well.
Bad Example and this production are labors of love for artistic director David Kaye, who has been involved in area theater for some time. He financed Fahrenheit from his own pocket, and staged it bare-bones with a cast of 10 friends at the tiny Alchemist Theatre space, 2569 S. Kinnickinic, where it will play eight more times through July 24. Tickets are a mere $15.
I wish the noble intentions yielded a brilliant result, but they did not. Jeremy Eineichner is lost as Montag, the central character, a professional bookburner who feels something missing in his soul and turns bookworm (and thus an Enemy of the People). He doesn’t know what to do with his arms; he fidgets and cannot settle into a stance to allow the words to play. This is not the body language of a Fireman in a crisis of faith, but of a comic actor unsure of himself in a dramatic role.
The weak performances at the top of the cast don’t rest entirely with the actors. Their parts are overwritten in word count and underwritten in content. Only Joanna Amos really understood her character, Mildred, Montag’s blockhead spouse. She had little to say, her feet were on the ground, she just wanted to watch TV, and her husband didn’t make sense to her.
Mildred was meant to stand for the ignorant masses who let mediocrity and conformity grind down a society’s humanity. But I must say, she was much more pleasant company than the posturing Montag. Stupid bookworm.
Have you read Judith Anne Moriarity’s brilliant recent piece on Bradbury’s novel? No? Then you must. Immediately.