Olivia Wilde's new play sounds wild, fam. It's reportedly so intense that it's causing audience members to throw up, pass out, scream and get into fistfights. This is not exaggerated. The show only opened on Thursday, and all of those things have happened.
The play is an adaptation of George Orwell's classic dystopian novel 1984, but it sounds like the totalitarian Big Brother in Wilde's version is even more cruel in bending his subjects to his will than in the book — The Hollywood Reporter's review called the show "political torture porn."
"We’re not trying to be willfully assaultive or exploitatively shock people, but there’s nothing here or in the disturbing novel that isn’t happening right now, somewhere around the world: People are being detained without trial, tortured and executed," director Duncan Macmillan told THR. "We can sanitize that and make people feel comforted, or we can simply present it without commentary and allow it to speak for itself."
Co-director Robert Icke added, "You can stay and watch or you can leave — that’s a perfectly fine reaction to watching someone be tortured. But if this show is the most upsetting part of anyone’s day, they’re not reading the news headlines. Things are much worse than a piece of theater getting under your skin a little bit."
The stage production of 1984 never explicitly mentions President Donald Trump, nor is it set specifically in today's present, but there are clear parallels between the storyline and the current administration. Not to mention, the decades-old book jumped back onto the bestseller list after the election.
The show has created some viscerally negative reactions, but that came as no surprise to Wilde, who broke her tailbone and dislocated a rib during previews.
"I’m not surprised, since this experience is unique, bold and immersive," she said after the show's opening night, where one attendee passed out. "It allows you to empathize in a visceral way, and that means making the audience physically and emotionally uncomfortable."
She added that the show is not for anyone of any particular political affiliation.
"The term ‘Orwellian’ is used by both sides of the aisle, and members of the right really claim this book as their own, so I hope they come see it," she said. "I hope this show makes people question everything they’re being told. All we’re saying is, the truth matters."
1984 is playing at Broadway's Hudson Theatre, with tickets on sale through Oct. 8. While it sounds like a difficult production to take in, it's also getting rave reviews — Variety even went so far as to say it's "worth the cost of losing your lunch." Worth a trip to New York to see it? It just might be.
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