"Remember," cautions the professor, "the public stopped reading of its own accord . . . "
So the public is willing to let the books be burned. And the firemen are hired to do the burning. Or at least that's how Ray Bradbury envisions the future, in his play, "Fahrenheit 451."As director L.L. West, of Plan-B Theatre Company, envisions the play, it is a surrealistic production. The actors say their lines as fires flicker behind them on three home-movie screens; later the backdrop changes to portray mechanical drawings, geodesic shapes, then more fire.
The theater itself adds to the otherworldliness of the production. For the first time, Plan-B rented the New Hope Center for a play.
It was freezing in the center on Friday night. As you sat on a cold seat, hoping for the radiators to warm up, you looked at the old wooden floors and the old wooden stage of what used to be an LDS wardhouse - and found yourself thinking of all the roadshows that have probably been performed there, which somehow adds to the odd ambiance.
Tracey Micheal Hall is commanding in the role of the fire chief, Beatty. She is kind of terrifying, actually. So cunning. And Gayle Staffanson, in the role of Mildred, a fireman's wife, is also a seasoned professional.
The others were good or good enough to make the play satisfying.
Natalie Anderson plays a manly firefighter named Black as well as a giddy housewife named Alice. Meg Charlier is Clarisse; sometimes her rushed delivery made her seem fey and coy, but sometimes it made the audience worry she was about to bumble her lines.
Chet Knight plays a stoic firefighter named Holden. Jeremy Jonsson is Faber, the learned grandfather. Charleton James is Montag, the central character - the man who wants to learn. James is a highly tormented Montag, almost from the first moment. He meets Claisse, his young neighbor who is not really supposed to be out on the streets at night - and he is confused by her.
He begins to ask questions. Soon he is sent out on a routine job - burning a thousand or so books - but becomes even more confused and frantic when the woman who owns the books decides to die with her volumes.
Before she dies, she hands him a book. It is a crafty move on her part. Soon Montag is lost to literature. The script is dramatic, and this production milks the drama. With lighting by Wilton Koernig and set by Randy Podosek and costumes (stark to funky) by David Stewart and Kelly Nickle, a futuristic effect is achieved.
And if you were confused at all about the author's view of censorship, a note at the bottom of the Fahrenheit 451 poster will set you straight: This production is NOT sponsored by the Utah Eagle Forum.