REVIEW: Madison Street Theatre’s Premiere Production: Animal Farm

So I’m a theatre junkie. However, I’m more likely to go to shows that include friends or if I have someone go with me. In the case of Animal Farm out in Oak Park, my beau was a part of the cast. Now I have a nasty habit to see a show multiple times when I’m going to see a significant other perform, but that is mainly because I enjoy being in the company of people that I have grown to respect and appreciate not only as performers, but as people and friends as well.

Below is a legitimate review of George Orwell’s Animal Farm written in early August 2011. The first of what I hope to be many to come. From here on out, any shows that I’ve come across (be it a community theatre production, bootleg I’ve come across, or professional show) I will post my thoughts of them here…

And now without further adieu: Animal Farm.


Animal Farm shows how all staged readings ought to be done. Craig J. Engel’s genius is to take a concept that by most accounts would be dull – and breathe new life into it. By having the actors sit in an elegant parlor acting out the script, he lures the audience deep into the story. His actors use their extraordinary voices to breathe life into author Orwell’s words, creating colorful images for the audience, while encouraging their imagination to roam free.

Headed by Adam Krause – whose voice not only provides the majority of the narration, but also melts into the background while supplying additional support – the cast shines in individual roles, as well as in the supplement narration each provides.

Michael Gonzalez is memorable as Boxer, the workhorse that believes in the good of the rebellion all the way to the end; Sarah Camargo’s heartbreaking portrayal of Boxer’s companion, Clover, whose maternal instincts can be heard through her voice as well as her actions.

Joseph Mennella is insightful as Snowball, the rebellion’s original pig leader, as well as Benjamin, the wise, quiet donkey who knows more than he lets on. Lorrisa Julianus shines as Napoleon, one of the pig leaders, using her distinctive, strong voice to pull the audience to attention and capturing the essence of how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Finally, there is young PJ Gonzalez, who doesn’t show his youth except in stature. As Squealer, PJ’s portrayal deftly manipulates the other animals on Napoleon’s orders. You can’t help but be drawn to this little tyke of an actor and know that only great things are to come down the road for him.

This stellar cast does more than simply relate words to an audience – they become the characters. They strive to lure the audience into an ancient tomb, where in time, we, as the audience, begin to comprehend the story’s pointed political allegory.

If there is ever a time to experience George Orwell’s Animal Farm, then heading over to Madison Street Theatre would be the best place to begin. The combination of a superb cast, sleek staging, and crisp direction create an environment that simply must be experienced by any and all lovers of theater.

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