Playhouse turned ‘Animal Farm’3/26/2014
“Four legs — woof! Two legs — ba-a-a!”
Recognize the refrain? It’s from “Animal Farm,” by George Orwell, one of those books kids are supposed to read in middle school. On the page, this slogan reads differently: It’s “good” and “bad,” not “woof” and “baa.” But that’s the kind of change you can expect at the Playhouse in this radical adaptation of the stage version. Live on stage, the Playhouse debuts a new “Animal Farm” featuring the fine local thespian talents of actual livestock.
“The barnyard citizens of central Iowa are a natural constituency for the Playhouse — entirely natural,” claimed pig wrangler, Ovid McDonald, of Norwalk.
Set on a fantasy farm, the plot involves talking animals that organize a barnyard revolution — a clamorous, odorous uprising against tyrannical farmer—blocked first by the barnyard animals’ new overseers, the pigs, which turn out to be worse oppressors than the farmer.
It’s a parable of power gone bestial.
“But this time we’ve got the actual beasts,” McDonald beamed.
Professional wranglers have been assigned for each of the animal groups to keep the actors on point — all are guided by the pointed direction of Kat L. Praad. Praad, clad in her everyday Carhart overalls and a John Deere cap, reckons this new theatrical wrangling is similar to the work she does running her 600-acre farm east of Ames.
“Just got to remember to keep the fox out of the henhouse,” she snickered with a snort, “or so to speak.”
“The fox,” in this case, refers to a mishap that vexed early rehearsals when a couple of the pigs’ “guard dogs” (similar to Gestapo or the KGB in the story) tore Beaux Peep, the lead ewe, wooly limb from wooly limb, “just as she was getting the hang of her part,” Praad sighed.
“Ay-yep,” she continued. “Lettin’ the cat out of the bag is a lot easier than gettin’ her back in… Or so to speak.”
On the bright side, the crew managed to harvest some tasty mutton from the tragedy.
“Ah, that ewe was a bit of princess, anyway,” shrugged sheep wrangler Chewie Cudd. “Beaux Peep wasn’t much ahead of the others when it came to her talent or her lines, but dialog is always a challenge in a show like this.”
Though the ewes tend to be too high-maintenance, according to Praad, and the pigs are dimwitted, the easiest part of the process, not surprising has been getting the dogs to speak.
“Woof,” one convincingly barked orders to a pig subordinate during a naked rehearsal. Brilliant. APRIL FOOLS!
John Domini is our weekly Play Mate theater critic. Sometimes he falls asleep during productions and is forced to make shit up.