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Paulanne Simmons

Orwell in America Captures the Mind and Spirit of a Great Writer

Orwell in America
Directed by Peter Hackett
59E59 Theaters
59 East 59 Street
From Oct. 7, 2016
Tues. thru Thurs. at 7:15pm, Fri. at 8:15pm, Sat. at 2:15pm & 8:15pm, Sun. at 3:15pm
Tickets: $35 (212) 279-4200 or www.59e59.org
Closes: Oct. 30 2016
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Oct. 22, 2016

George Orwell, the distinguished British author of “Animal Farm” is on tour promoting his book. The time is just after World War II. The place is small-town America. And according to playwright Joe Sutton, Americans want nothing of Orwell’s socialist beliefs. They have decided “Animal Farm” is an anti-communist manifesto, and they want to hear Orwell speak out against the totalitarian system they fear may take over the world.

Jamie Horton in ORWELL IN AMERICA at 59E59 Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Sutton’s “Orwell in America” is certainly a play about ideas. Orwell (Jamie Horton) proclaims his ideas to the audiences he faces across America. He explains them to his publicist, Carlotta Morrison (Jeanna De Waal). And he sometimes seems to be justifying them to himself.

But in many ways, “Orwell in America” is also a play about a man. We see the famed writer in all his strengths and weaknesses. If Orwell is certain of his ideology, he is also quite lonely (his wife died several years previously). He admits that he has gotten into the habit of asking women he hardly knows to marry him.

If it’s obvious from the beginnig that Orwell is attracted to the much younger Carlotta, but it’s not evident at first that the feeling is mutual. However, under the gentle hand of director Peter Hackett, the relationship between the two becomes steadily closer and more meaningful. If Carlotta never consents to more than sitting next to Orwell on the sofa, we are not surprised. Nevertheless, we can’t help but wonder what if...

Horton gives a masterful performance as Orwell. Orwell may be a bit too self-assured and self-involved, but Horton makes him so human we forgive him his sins. What’s more, De Waal is the perfect foil, bringing out Orwell’s more vulnerable, sometimes awkward side.



From beginning to end, Sutton insists George Orwell was born Eric Blair. As Orwell tells Carlotta, “... Mr. Blair was Mr. Orwell before Mr. Orwell became himself.” Perhaps the playwright is telling us there is no real difference between the public and private persona of politicians (and Orwell does consider himself a politician). We may never know whether they are motivated by personal need or the desire to do good. And it may not matter.

L-R: Jeanna De Waal and Jamie Horton in ORWELL IN AMERICA at 59E59
Theaters. Photo by Carol Rosegg



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