When you go to a production, there are certain expectations that should be met. You should walk away satisfied, having seen a show that is thought provoking and envelops you in the story.
“Fahrenheit 451” had every chance to meet those expectations, but plot holes and comical overacting by the students burned away a classic story.
Ray Bradbury’s classic novel is set in a dystopian future where books are burned on sight. Firemen no longer put out fires, but start them instead. Having a book is not tolerated.
The biggest issue with the production of “451” is something that’s never seen. A portion of the story was cut out. These six pages explain the majority of a main character’s motivation, but were for whatever reason cut from the production.
Does the show still work? Yes, but it makes less sense. Now you have no motivation for a character to do what he does at the climax of the show. And that does not work. See Beatty, played by Adam Vergino, is an overacted character. If you read his lines, he could be exactly like Col. Nathan Jessup from “A Few Good Men,” in the sense that his character is the leader. Instead we get a hammed up version of a man who is hiding a dark secret. Every line was so over the top and smiled that it seemed that he was a used car salesman. Nothing screamed “fire chief” except for the way he was dressed.
What is the secret? You’ll never know because it’s not in the production. There was no way to cut through the fog he created around his character
I’m all for artistic license, having been an actor myself, but there is a difference between overacting and giving the character subtext. See, subtext is subtle and helps give the actor motivation, but it’s not supposed to show in the way you act. It’s a personal tool to help the actor become the character.
Maybe it’s not Vergino’s fault. Maybe it was a production choice made by the director. All I know is it doesn’t work.
Another bad production choice was to have the actors be seen using futuristic medical equipment to save Mildred, the protagonist Guy Montag’s wife. Instead of showing that “medical equipment,” they could have done that in a black out so we didn’t have to see it. When I’m seeing a re-appropriated steam cleaner being used as an oxygen tank/stomach pump, I am more interested in seeing how similar it is to the steam cleaner I have at home. Not to mention it just looked faked. Sure, it’s the future, but that doesn’t mean things take seconds to pump a stomach and flush all the toxins out of a system, right? If the best method we have right now takes a minimum of three hours. There is no way you could flush the blood of toxins without using a needle at the very least to inject something in to the bloodstream.
While we are on the topic of things that shouldn’t be seen, transitions between scenes were terrible. Actors were seen getting into place, taking set parts with them, but into areas that were lit with scenic lighting.
As a former actor myself, nothing kills the mood while watching a show than when you can see the actors moving to their marks in transitions. I understand that in a small theater like the Black Box, it’s hard to turn out all the lights, but it could be so much better if you had theater techs to set the pieces. Their job is not to be seen or heard.
I can say with all honesty that I understand these are students. They are learning to hone their craft, and that is great. The majority of the cast was great, the set looked fantastic and the show was entertaining.
The problem bits, however, were major enough that they couldn’t stop the slow burn. RATING: 2 OUT OF 5
Director Wendy Wisely’s response
Why remove portions of the script?
Because I replaced, or, actually I didn’t replace, I put back into the show pieces of the original novel, scenes, and some speeches, and, in order for the show to not be added to in length, I had to make some other cuts. One of the items that I cut, I also felt was a substantial change from the original novel, which was a scene with Beatty.
So why cut out that scene where Beatty reveals his motives and shows Montag his collection? It seemed like that would be a pivotal plot point.
Since it wasn’t in the original novel, that was an easy one to cut. And, because like I said, because I had added in other things, and other scenes. You know, I had to make some cuts and that one was one of the ones to go.”
The other reason I cut it is because I hated it. I thought it cheapened his character, I thought it treated the audience in a way that, well, the other thing too, is I thought it started to become more about Beady and less about Montag, that also.
I thought it was a side step from the actual plot, which it was. And again, it wasn’t in the novel, the novel is far superior to the play. That’s another reason why I took it out. The only thing that I left in, that I thought, okay, this would be too much to change cause, also, I couldn’t figure out how to do it on stage, was in the original book.
Beatty doesn’t commit suicide. Beatty is killed by Montag. So that I left in the play, but I thought it would more have an enigma, the fact and the actors, then the characters, Montag and Black and the other firemen treated that way too.
Beatty uses the obscure references that sort of hint to a background of greed which gives credibility to his big monologue about the danger of books.
So, I think it was more interesting, at least it was more interesting to me, to not be banged over the head of, ‘and guess how he knows these, guess what, he’s got books, well, no kidding, what a surprise’, versus sort of finding out at the end, when he pulls out a book and reads it. That of course he was a reader, and he actually loved books, and he was struggling within himself.
I didn’t need to have a whole scene bang me over the head with it. So that’s how I felt about it. And also, I feel it’s Montag’s story, to add that scene it becomes Beatty’s story.”
Was that a production choice to have Beatty’s character be like that of a used car salesman?
Yeah, as a matter of fact, that’s a quality that Adam has that actually, I find, sort of charming.
And so he’s off-putting in that sense. “Oh he’s not going to take him serious, oh he’s not that dangerous, he’s just a guy. It’s not that big a deal.”
He’s not this menacing super character, and it allows him to sort of be, you know, ‘Hey, let’s go out and have a beer. Oh by the way, I also burn old ladies.’
But other than that, it’s not a big deal.’ That sort of, ‘hey I’m kind of funny.’ But it leads it a little bit more creepy. I don’t necessarily think that was a deliberate choice on the part of Adam.
That is sort of who he is as an actor but it’s a quality about him, one of the many qualities about him, that I really find endearing, but more importantly than that, he was cast because he was an extremely hard working actor, and the line wrote of Beatty is … huge. I mean it’s much larger than most college productions would ever give a student.
And so I needed a veteran actor who had maturity who I knew, could every night, get it down. And he was one of the first people off book too.”