“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” So say the pigs in George Orwell’s classic novella Animal Farm. You might remember the story of revolutionary livestock from required high school reading, but you haven’t experienced Animal Farm quite this way before.
This edgy musical stage adaptation features four songs and actors dressed as animals kicking around a giant dirt pit ... really. For this play, the black box theater has been transformed into a farmyard using 256 cubic feet of coconut soil. “The dirt pit allows the characters to get dirtier and dirtier as their revolution evolves and devolves,” says Troy Heard, Majestic Repertory Theatre’s artistic director and the director of Animal Farm. There’s also a metal water trough, which the animals use. “Watch out for the splash zone,” Heard jokes.
“All the shows this season were themed around ‘revolution,’” Heard says. Other plays this season included Hair, An Octoroon and Marie Antoinette. “The endurance of the tale exceeds Orwell’s allegory of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Every country experiencing a despotic government turns to it. There’s a reason China banned it this week.”
Heard says audience response to the season’s theme has been “terrific.” “I like to cross the line into political commentary through my art,” Heard says, “but it has to be delivered in an entertaining shell.”
So exactly how do the animal costumes work? They’re more impressionistic than realistic, necessary for the actors to play their roles and move about the stage. The actors who play horses use poles to evoke equine legs; pigs get pig noses but stand upright. Most of the stage magic comes through animal mannerisms and gestures. Regg Davidson—who plays Moses, an evangelical raven—has spent the last several months observing birds outside whenever he sees them. So what has he learned about ravens? “They have an attitude, and they’re very regal.”
“It’s more fun to play an animal than a human,” says Davidson, who describes his character as a clever, fast-talking opportunist. “I’m able to move my arms, describe things with my head movement … my wings. I get to be a little bit more dramatic.”
ANIMAL FARM Through June 3; Thursday-Sunday, various times; $15-$25. 1217 S. Main Street, 702-423-6366.