Review: Brave New World

by | Feb 8, 2018 | PERFORMING ARTS

“It is a story of a false utopia…where humans are living in a controlled environment based on meeting their most instinctual desires, everyone is essentially conditioned and brainwashed,” said Maggie Roop, Director of Quill Theatre’s Brave New World production, which opened this past weekend. The parallels with our current society are everywhere. 

Similar to the book, the play tells of a society that has been neutered through baseline eugenics, pills, promiscuity, and overreliance on technology. In a twist on our current society, childbearing *outside* of a test tube is considered “savage” and base, and any anxiety is masked with a dose of “soma,” the society’s wonder-drug.

Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, was pained by a culture he saw as promiscuous and shallow. He paired these attributes with the ideals of carmaker Henry Ford to craft the society of “Brave New World.” The final product was a strong commentary on capitalist culture, mob rule, and anti-intellectualism.

In this production, two members of “civilization” Bernard Marx and Lenina, take a trip to a “savage compound” that wouldn’t go along with society’s current paradigm. When Bernard and Lenina bring two savages back for “studying,” things go south precipitously.

Michael Oppenheimer, who plays  Marx, is a bit of an outsider in his society, questioning the ideology of the world he’s in and abstaining from “some trips” and group activities. Again, it’s hard not to notice the connection between this world and the “resistance” happening in our world.

Actress Alex Wiles portrayed Lenina, a middle-class technician who’s known for her beauty and her myriad of lovers. Like Marx, she occasionally appears to question the rules she follows, but unlike Marx, fails to ultimately challenge her society. The meditations on speaking up and not blindly following along come alive beautifully with Wiles and Oppenheimer.

One of Huxley’s points is that the idea of not having an overabundance of convenience essentially makes us less human. “We’re in a phase now where a lot of people are willing to be told what to do, said Roop. Much of Huxley’s commentary, she said, is valid today. “It’s very timely.”

Indeed, in a world where (virtually) everything can be done without leaving home, and “Alexa” is quickly becoming ubiquitous, audience members will find it hard not to see the mirror image in the production.

For Roop, the parallels between “Brave New World” and today’s society are abundant, especially our obsession with social media and the rise of fake news and partisan media.

“Right now, we’re in a world where we are feeding off information that … isn’t necessarily accurate, and we are people who self-medicate,” she said. 

Quill Theatre and the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen’s “Brave New World” plays now through Feb. 17 at 2880 Mountain Rd. 

Photos By: Aaron Sutten 

Matthew S. Sporn

Matthew S. Sporn

Matthew Sporn is a journalist and blogger born and raised in RVA. He began his writing career on Tumblr. That led to, an internship at RVA Mag, and then the Odyssey at VCU. If it's politics, Matthew is covering it. He is on Twitter @Matthewrva.

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