While “four legs good, two legs bad” may be one of the most basic tenets of Animalism, theatergoers expecting to see actors crawling on all fours and mooing in full barnyard regalia may be sorely disappointed with the Cal Poly Theatre and Dance Department’s adaptation of George Orwell’s classic “Animal Farm.”

However, according to director Josh Machamer, those seeking an evening of thought-provoking, audience-engaging live theater are in for an experience unlike anything the department has offered this season.

“Animal Farm,” adapted for the stage by Ian Woolridge, is an allegorical tale of power, revolution and corruption that uses animals to exhibit the best and worst aspects of human nature.

When the animals of Manor Farm grow weary of the abuse and exploitation they suffer at the hands of their drunken master Farmer Jones, they drive him away and build their own society based upon the principles of Animalism, an ideology similar to Marxism, that teaches “all animals are equal.”

Unfortunately, as has been the case with all “utopian societies” throughout history, greed, power and corruption eventually lead to the ideology’s perversion until the new “Animal Farm” is virtually indistinguishable from its evil predecessor.

Commonly accepted as an allegory for the Russian Revolution and early 20th-century English labor battles, the true significance of “Animal Farm” lies beyond the allegorical retelling of these historical events.

According to Machamer, the story serves as a wake-up call for anyone willing to accept leadership without questioning the power structure itself.

“Life goes on as it has always gone on,” he said, “and nobody stops to question the machine to keep it from turning back on itself.”

“Animal Farm” questions that “corruption lynchpin” prevalent in most governments and asks, “How do we maintain our own ideals without succumbing to different lobbies?”

Audience members who have read the book will not find any deviation from Orwell’s work. Machamer said the performance, which has hints of story theater, concentrates on the word-for-word retelling of the story, “just compacted.” However, Machamer added, “The way in which we’re telling the story, from a visual and conceptual standpoint, has definitely changed.”

The visual aspect of the show and its power to draw in the audience is something Machamer is particularly proud of. This is due in part to the fact that the set, lighting and costume designs were done entirely by students, a rarity in the department’s productions.

“Animal Farm” plays at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, and 8 p.m. May 21 to 22 at the Spanos Theatre. General admission is $12, with $10 tickets being offered for seniors and Cal Poly students and faculty.

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