Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Fahrenheit 451

Also see Susan's reviews of Fela! and The Country Girl

David Bonham
Author Ray Bradbury has been quoted as saying of his writing: "I don't try to predict the future. I try to prevent it." The jolting multimedia production of Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury's own adaptation of his 1953 novel, now at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, shows that, in many ways, society did not heed his warnings.

In Bradbury's future society, books are banned and firemen, far from extinguishing fires, now burn the books they find. People sleepwalk through their lives, anesthetized both literally (with drugs) and intellectually (through interactive television shows broadcast on wall-size screens). What has allowed the destruction of books, and by extension the end of thought, is the abundance of external stimuli that saturate the mind without stimulating insight.

That is the initial situation of Bradbury's protagonist, a fireman named Montag (David Bonham); he sees only beauty, not destruction, in fire, while his wife Mildred (Liz Mamana) is only vaguely aware of anything other than her blonde, plasticized self and the images on the glowing screen. Despite the efforts of a young radical (Aurora Heimbach) to break through Montag's shell, he only begins to wonder about the power of books after he watches a woman burn to death rather than abandon her library.

While Bonham's characterization grows as Montag becomes more aware of the world around him, Jefferson A. Russell gives the most powerful performance as Montag's boss, Beatty. His scene about the evaporation of thought, the presence of "plenty of facts but no meaning," provides the human basis for the drama.

The ironic thing about this production is that the (over-)reliance on technology of which Bradbury warns is what led to the contemporary media that director Sharon Ott use to make her vision so compelling. She and her cast worked with a team of artists at the Savannah College of Art and Design to create a world where walls shimmer with images of fire, three-dimensional computer models come to life, and changes of scene occur when multi-screen film projections displace actual pieces of furniture.

Hal Tiné is credited with production design, with Dawn Testa as costume designer; Ruth Hutson, lighting designer; Steve LeGrand, music and sound designer; Michael Jackson Chaney, director-live action film segments; Alessandro Imperato, motion media designer; David Wardell, animation; and Brad Matarazzo, motion graphics.

Round House Theatre
Fahrenheit 451
September 7th —October 9th

By Ray Bradbury, based on his novel
The Firemen:
Montag: David Bonham
Black: B. Todd Johnston
Holden: Mark Hairston
Beatty: Jefferson A. Russell
Henley: Paul Scanlan
Clarisse: Aurora Heimbach
Mildred: Liz Mamana
Paramedics: Katie Atkinson, Rachel Holt, Paul Scanlan
Mrs. Hudson: Jean Harrison
Faber: John Lescault
Mildred's friends:
Alice: Rachel Holt
Helen: Katie Atkinson
In the Forest:
Aristotle: Katie Atkinson
Ensemble: B. Todd Johnston, Mark Hairston, Jean Harrison, Rachel Holt, John Lescault, Liz Mamana, Jefferson A. Russell, Paul Scanlan
Directed by Sharon Ott
4545 East-West Highway
Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-644-1100 or

Photo: Danisha Crosby