I'd forgotten what a great story George Orwell's Animal Farm is. I remember reading it in elementary school and the teacher went to great lengths to explain that the love declared between male pigs Napoleon and Snowball, the leaders of an animal revolution, was NOT the same as the love between a man and a woman. It was more brotherly and certainly not sexual.
The Subversive Theatre Collective, a feisty and tireless political theatre group working out of an old Pierce-Arrow automobile plant in Buffalo, New York is presenting Occupy Animal Farm, an original play based on Orwell's allegorical novella about a political revolution among animals on a farm. Here, there is little doubt Napoleon and Snowball (Jeffrey Coyle and Jonathan Shuey) are gay pigs frolicking in the mud, plotting revolution and very much in love.
They are self-proclaimed leaders of the revolution after convincing the other farm animals that pigs are the smartest of the animal kingdom. Early in the play while scheming to take control of the farm, Napoleon unexpectedly announces to Snowball, "I love you." It's a funny scene with a finely executed dead beat that caught the audience unaware as if responding, "Did we hear that right?"
I was reminded that the book was a real page-turner, and the integrity of Orwell's vision, a cleverly comic fable with totalitarian thunderclouds threatening a socialist agenda, is intact in writer Justin Karcher's original work, which leans heavily on the humor while never relaxing the muscle that gives the story dramatic weight, even suspense.
Director Drew McCabe incorporates several unlikely theatrical forms into the proceedings: chaotic chase scenes set to the tune of a wacky slapstick soundtrack (think Benny Hill); audience participation that never quite catches on (this only works when the audience is enraptured); and dance choreography (yes, not only do these animals talk, they dance) to Justin John Smith's original, bizarre, and finally memorable music that combines rock and Hindustani influences. The closing dance with the entire cast, a morphing of modern and Asian-Indian dance forms by choreographer Jenny Kulwicki, is strangely effective while having seemingly nothing to do with Animal Farm.