By: Natalie La Roche // Contributing Writer
After a year of virtual productions, FIU Theater has returned to the stage with an adaptation of the novel “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. The show ran from Sep. 24 to Oct. 3 at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center, and it was directed by Phillip M. Church. It was an immersive experience filled with excellent performances and high quality production.
The novel takes place in a dystopian society where a fireman’s role is to burn books, as books teach critical thinking that could become an impediment to simplistic happiness. Guy Montag, the protagonist, is one of the firemen of this system. He goes from an obedient worker to a defiant citizen that loses his belief for the cause.
No time was wasted in bringing the audience into the story. In fact, the audience was immersed even before the actors hit the stage. Firemen from this world inspect you upon entering the theater, asking if you’ve read any of the books on the list they carry and if you’re watching TV.
You are made to feel that you belong in this world too, a world where authority figures instill you with fear so that you comply with their ideals.
As if that introduction to the play wasn’t attention grabbing enough, the cast did an excellent job at hooking your attention from the moment the first person came on stage.
Luigi Perez and Luis Avila were a brilliant pair for their performances of Montag and Captain Beatty, respectively. Both actors have a strong pulse on their movement and stage presence, making for dynamic interactions in every scene, but especially the ones where they were the only two on stage.
Daniella Valdivieso as Mildred, Montag’s wife, delivered her lines in such a way that made clear that every intonation was purposeful; there is great performance power in her voice alone. As a whole, the cast delivered performances that were in tune with each other, no one’s ego got in the way of the craft.
Image taken by Natalie La Roche/PantherNOW
I was particularly impressed with the cast’s dedication to performing with masks on. It can’t be easy to portray emotion when half of your face is covered, and yet the cast delivered the promise of theatrical emotion through the other faculties available to them as actors.
Their body language and tones of voice made up for what was lost under the mask, and for those of us close enough to the stage to see them, their eyes delivered an extra load throughout the performance.
Other elements of the play that stand out in their quality are the audio production and costumes. The audio team filled the physical absence of firetrucks, TVs the height of walls, and a cyborg hunting hound with perfectly timed audio.
While there may be visual gaps because of the natural limitations of theater, the sound department assured that there would be no gaps in the storytelling. The costumes, especially those of the firemen,made the storytelling even richer with how well they blended into the play’s world. I particularly liked the touch of Captain Beatty’s e-cigarette.
The production of “Fahrenheit 451” was exceptionally made and executed. I am a bit surprised, however, by the decision to make this the opening play of the season after lockdown.
While enjoyable, it felt like I traded one dystopian society for another. Shows do not need to be lightheaded or comical to be good, but after a year of pessimism and overall seriousness, I would have expected the comeback show to be more uplifting.
Nonetheless, the play is an indication of the caliber of performers and theater crew FIU has to offer, and I am looking forward to the coming shows.