It's taken a year for the Actor's Gang's already painfully topical stage version of George Orwell's classic dystopian novel to arrive in Orange County. Helpfully, the War on Terror drags on, so the timing of this show, written by the San Francisco Mime Troupe's Michael Gene Sullivan, couldn't be better—ignorance is strength/freedom is slavery/war is peace-wise. And by better, I mean worse. Indeed, escalation is “surge,” state kidnapping is “extraordinary rendition,” “staying the course” is planning to attack Iran and, no kidding, I recently saw an “I 'heart' Gitmo” bumper sticker. All of this as 70 percent of Americans say they now actually oppose the invasion and occupation of Eurasia and Eastasia—oops!—Iran and Afghanistan.
Sullivan's adaptation of the book that everybody read in high school, about Winston Smith and the nightmare world of Big Brother, Newspeak and Crimethink, begins after our doomed hero's arrest, and is set in an interrogation room in the Ministry of Love. You don't have to watch Fox News to recognize Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, but it couldn't hurt. Or it could. I mean, if somebody caught you and held you without charges and tortured you, say. Sullivan and activist/Actor's Gang artistic director/movie star Tim Robbins make a radical theater dream team, if you go in for that sort of thing, and apparently people do, judging from the successes of Robbins's recent anti-war play “Embedded” and Sullivan's summer Mime Troupe production of his original musical “Godfellas,” a send-up of religion as mafia that enjoyed an extended run at that legendary Bay Area ur-people's theater. Religion as organized crime syndicate? State power as terrorism? It's almost like these two lefty dramaturges want to tell us something.
The Actor's Gang presents Orwell's 1984 at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Dr., Irvine, (949) 854-4646; www.thebarclay.org. Tues., 8 p.m. $28.