The 2018 cast of A Christmas Carol AdamsViscom
My trip to the Arvada Center to see Nelson Bond’s adaptation of Orwell’s Animal Farm was more electrifying than the hundreds of theater trips of the past several years of reviewing. As many of you know, I had surgery for a hip replacement early in January, and this was my first expedition outside since then—if you don’t count visits to doctors and physical therapists. Which I don’t. So it was in a state of joyous exultation mixed with a sort of trembling vulnerability that I assayed the path to the front door after my dear friend Ellen dropped me off in front of the building and left to park. I walked the short length with no reassuring hand under the elbow, took the lift upstairs (I had always used the stairs before), and mounted the few steps to our seats, turning over the kind offer of help from another theater-goer in my mind. Was I feeling more grateful than humiliated by her offer, or vice versa? I settled on grateful.

And then came the gleaming light of the production. Animal Farm isn’t a story for children though it’s all about a group of farmyard animals who rebel against their cruel and incompetent owner. It’s a story about suffering and political corruption, originally written by George Orwell and inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The ruthless leaders are represented by pigs protected by a vicious dog military. But the czars who were overthrown by the revolution aren’t spared either. They’re embodied in the self-aggrandizing Farmer Jones and his cronies. So we were watching as these fictive animal creatures’ hopes of freedom, justice, kindness and decent lives were destroyed by one horrific pig decree after another while in real life Vladimir Putin was unleashing a torrent of destruction and death in Ukraine.

The production, directed by the multi-talented Jessica Robblee, is well-acted. Of particular note are the performances of Logan Ernstthal as leading pig-dictator Napoleon, Noelia Antweiler playing Clover, Sean Scrutchins portraying the aptly named propagandist Squealer, and Topher Embrey’s frivolous Molly and stolid carthorse Boxer. The action is swift, sometimes very funny, and sometimes stomach twisting as we see what happens to critics and dissenters of the new regime, and even to faithful Boxer, while pondering the massive threat to democracy here and in Europe.

This is a fascinating and—by sad chance—remarkably relevant choice for the center’s Black Box Repertory Theatre. It runs in repertory with The Liar and Stick Fly through May 21st. For tickets and more information: