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Farenheit 451, The Play, Is Presented by Godlight Theatre Company
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Farenheit 451, The Play, Is Presented by Godlight Theatre Company

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Farenheit 451

A Play By Ray Bradbury
Based on His 1953 Novel of the Same Name

Presented By
Godlight Theatre Company
59 E 59 Theaters
59 East 59th Street
(59 E 59 Website)

Ken King as Guy Montag
Teal Wicks as Clarisse
Gracy Kaye as Mildred
David Bartlett, Cyrus Roxas, Gregory Konow, Sam Whitten, Kristen Rozanski, Mike Roche, and Jessica Rider
As Paramedics, Voices, Firefighters, Book Persons, Aristotle, Captain Beatty, Mrs. Hudson, Alice, Faber, and Helen

Director: Joe Tantalo
Set and Lighting Design: Maruti Evans
Original Music & Sound Design: Andrew Recinos
Assoc. Design, Sets & Lights: Aaron Paternoster
Production Stage Manager: Jenny Deady
Asst. Stage Manager: Amy Acorn
Fight Choreographer: Josh Renfree
Movement Choreographer: Hachi Yu
Press: Karen Greco

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 13, 2006

The eerie lighting, smoky air, and central stage with surrounding audience, upstairs at the tiny 59 E 59 Theater C, encloses four firefighters, frozen in the moment, and electronic sounds of crackling blaze, through yellow spotlights, in anticipation of surreal drama. Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel, Farenheit 451, concerns government control and punishment for thinking about, reading, or communicating about thought-provoking books. Firefighters start blazes, and they do so to burn the books and their readers, sometimes whole houses, sometimes whole families. In the first few moments of Mr. Bradbury’s persuasive play, based on his prescient novel, we could confuse the 50’s fantasy for ‘06 reality, with today’s simplified Fox news, crude survival shows, sensational murder mania, and the “dumning down” of language and behavior, attire and attitude, and the American culture, in general.

Guy Montag (Ken King) is a firefighter turned rebel, who first burns books and then recites from books, who opens his mind and risks his life. He is first seen with Clarisse (Teal Wicks), in an encounter, reminiscent of a carefree rogue meeting an elusive nymph. Later he is seen married to Mildred (Gracy Kaye), who pops pills and fights his rebellion, fearful of repressive and reprehensible consequences. The other central character is Captain Beatty (Gregory Konow), an intense figure in firefighter garb and dangling cigarette. A variety of struggles, ruminations, and battles ensue among key players, the additional firefighters, paramedics, and a small group of treacherous, shallow women.

There are Book Persons and Book Burners, thinkers and traitors, accomplices and spies. There are tiny earpieces that enable one to communicate, and a synchronized, poetic recitation by Montag and Faber (Mike Roche) is a riveting moment in a riveting production. Bradbury’s concept that “they know who and where you are, just from the earpiece” is scarily congruent with current news about the NSA’s domestic spying. Andrew Recinos’ electronic music is perfectly suited to this surreal fantasy that’s filled with thought-provoking imagery. Hachi Yu’s choreography is well conceived for the tiny theatre that houses a full audience and actors, who, offstage, were inches from my seat. The onstage dramatics and offstage voices, sirens and fire effects, a real fire in a tiny cigarette lighter, an imaginary pill bottle with multiple pills, and a scary scenario combined for good theatre and lasting imagery.

This is an almost two-hour production, including the wait at the door, with no intermission. A number of the 59 E 59 plays, recently, have been performed with no intermission, and I wonder at the logic or logistics, as there are sometimes several events happening at once. I would recommend shortening the final scenes or including an intermission to stretch. The momentum would not be lost, any more than it is in a Broadway drama, which almost always includes time to stretch. Kudos to Playwright, Ray Bradbury, Director, Joe Tantalo, and to an energetic, engaging cast.

Ken King
Photo courtesy of Simon Alexander

Gregory Konow and Ken King
Photo courtesy of Simon Alexander

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at