A lot has happened in the world since Ray Bradbury wrote his 1953 "Fahrenheit 451." Bradbury has adapted his novel for the stage and it is the current guest production by Bradbury's Pandemonium Theatre Company at the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena. Bradbury's play starts slow, with some weak transitions, and yet there are some promisingly powerful moments.
For those that are more familiar with Michael Moore's documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11," a title that Bradbury protested, this story is about book burning. The title refers to the temperature that books will ignite and yet the story is not meant to be about censorship.
There is, in this script adapted by Bradbury and directed by Alan Neal Hubbs, a slight speech about how minorities worked to condemn certain books, but according to Bradbury, this story was originally written to express his great love of books and his fear that the boob tube was making us mindless.
In the future, firemen do not put out fires, they burn books. Guy Montag (David Polcyn) is one such man, following in the footsteps of his father. During one such burning, he secretly takes a book and this brings him to the attention of his captain (Michael Prichard) and scares his wife (Meaghan Boeing). He also finds himself drawn to his young neighbor Clarisse (Jessica D. Stone). He eventually is forced to flee and joins other lovers of literature.
Yet the future Bradbury imagined in the 1950s doesn't reflect what we know now. Sure there are now huge televisions, but what about the Internet, GPS and books online? A few miles away, a rare book was on display at the local botanic garden--totally on a computer screen. Bradbury's script doesn't attempt to address issues that the audience would be familiar with. If you argue Bradbury is staying true to his original vision, he has already made some changes to the plot for the play.
Aside from the clash between the imagined future and our present, the play suffers from some awkward transitions, abrupt endings of scenes that do not flow into the next one and some scenes that seem extraneous. Some things remain unclear. At first I thought Clarisse was meant to be a child, or a girl not quite yet a woman and that gave Montag's attraction to her sort of a creepy undertone. The first scene is feeble yet the ending gives a different dimension than other interpretations I have seen, one that makes sense and resonates with the whole context of a play. You'll have to see this production to understand what I mean. No spoilers in this review.
Certainly this production shows promise, but could stand some editing and re-working.
"Fahrenheit 451" continues until June 8 at the Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave (at El Centro) in South Pasadena. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. and Sundays,3 p.m.
(323) 960-4451 or Plays411.