Animal Farm

Will you like or dislike these 5 things about this production?

By Andrew Andrews

William Ketter performs the role of Old Major (among many others) in Brandon Walker’s adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, presented by The Seeing Place at the Paradise Factory’s Basement Theater. Original production photos by Russ Rowland.

George Orwell’s allegory for the Russian Revolution was required reading for many an American high school student, such as me, during the cold war.

The animals of The Manor Farm, led by a group of pigs that are tired of being neglected, overthrow their alcoholic owner and attempt to implement a communist society in which all animals are equal and all human characteristics are branded as evil.

With time, however, the pigs in charge allocate resources disproportionately to themselves, eventually walking on two legs and wearing clothes that make them virtually indistinguishable from their human enemies.

Adapted for the stage by The Seeing Place, Orwell’s 75-year-old story is now presented live by four human actors, each assuming a multitude of different animal roles.

Here are five things about this production you might like or dislike, depending on your perspective:

Laura Clare Browne, Erin Cronican and Brandon Walker round out the cast, each performing many roles.
  1. If you’re a stickler for details, be aware that this adaptation deviates slightly from the original story. However, if you’re like me and remember little more about the novella than the basic synopsis, playwright Brandon Walker’s version is easily close enough to satisfy.
  2. I expected going into this show that I’d be confused and annoyed that twenty-eight different roles were being performed by only four actors. That said, the cast has spent a great deal of time developing mannerisms appropriate for each type of animal, and truth be told, I wasn’t as confused or annoyed as I expected. I still believe, however, that I would have enjoyed this production a lot more with a larger cast, so the actors portraying the major characters could each play a single part.
  3. A stated goal of The Seeing Place is to make live theatre affordable to everyone, with $20 general admission tickets, an Affordable Theatre Initiative and ticket gifting programs. To keep costs in line with that mission, the production value here is pretty basic, resulting in next-to-nothing costumes and no more of a set than a few wooden crates and a scattering of straw.
  4. The second act of our performance wasn’t as energized as the first, and I started to feel that the show was running a little longer than it should have. I believe the problem could be eliminated by reducing the content in the first half, so that intermission comes a little sooner.
  5. Before the show officially begins, three of the cast members are already on stage and in character, interacting with the audience and encouraging participation in the form of clucks, moos and baahs, depending on whether you’re seated in the section labeled Hens, Cows or Sheep, respectively. This adds a nice touch to the performance that made our significantly-delayed start a little more bearable.

I was on the fence about my rating for this performance, when I realized that I enjoyed it more than the short-lived Broadway production of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four a few years ago, despite the slightly-larger cast, higher production value and much higher ticket price for that show.

As a result, I’ve decided to round up here instead of rounding down.


Andrew Andrews attended Animal Farm at TSP @ the Paradise Factory Basement Theater in Manhattan on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 @ 7:00pm to write this review.