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Revolution in the Barnyard

A Noise Within’s ‘Animal Farm’ does justice to Orwell’s cautionary tale
By EDDIE RIVERA, Weekendr Magazine Editor
Published on Sep 4, 2022

Pig leader Napoleon (Rafael Goldstein) with dogs (Cassandra Marie Murphy and Nicole Javier) in scvene from ‘Animal Farm’ onstage through October at Pasadena’s A Noise Within theater. [Photo by Craig Schwartz / A Noise Within]

History tends to repeat itself, and then repeat itself again. 

A Noise Within’s presentation of George Orwell’s 1945 satire, Animal Farm, as adapted by the National Theatre’s Sir Peter Hall, hammers that point home powerfully. This familiar story of farm animals wanting to rise up against their human leaders degenerates into an ominously dark cautionary tale that seems to ring out a little more truly these days.

You read it on assignment in high school and wrote about it in college, but here’s a brief plot refresher:  The animals of Manor Farm rise up against their cruel and negligent human owner Mr. Jones (Bert Emmett) in a struggle led by the idealistic pig, Snowball (Stanley Andrew Jackson III), and take over the farm. 

Like so many revolutions, all goes well at first.  

The animals—the horses (Geoff Elliott, Nicole Javier, Deborah Strang), goat (Philicia Saunders), donkey (Jeremy Rabb), cat (Sedale Threatt Jr.), raven (Cassandra Marie Murphy), along with sundry cows, sheep, hens and pigeons—are thrilled with the notion of leading themselves into a better future with “Animalism” and eventually uniting animals all over the world. 

But reality sets in soon enough (also like so many revolutions), along with a strong helping of “human” nature, as the pig leaders, led by Napoleon (Rafael Goldstein) and Squealer (Trisha Miller), eventually succumb to the lure of power and in the end, they become far dangerous and power-drunk than their former human controllers.

All of the cast is strong, convincing and transformative. That said, there are notable standouts.

Rafael Goldstein, as the aptly named Napoleon, is chilling in his at-first friendly and wise leadership of his barn mates, reassuring them that as a “smart” pig (boar, actually), he is best qualified to lead. The horses, cows, and sheep dutifully follow along. 

As Goldstein’s Napoleon rises up against those who have risen up, his metamorphosis is frightening, all of it delivered with a cool, smarmy and cruel sensibility.

Squealer, his second, as portrayed by resident artist Trisha Miller, is also dark and alluring and too quick to redefine and re-convince, if necessary, the animals of the truth of Napoleon’s lies. 

Where have we seen this all before? 

Nicole Javier as Mollie, the vain and selfish trained horse, is convincing in her weakness and untrustworthiness, and her inability to see past her own bridle.

Jackson’s Snowball character is easy to like and root for, and hearts are broken in the barnyard and theater when he is ultimately sideswiped by the ruthless Napoleon. 

As with so many of ANW’s performances, the production values are first rate, and the company seems to easily adapt to its open multi-level stage. In this case, Angela Balogh Calin’s set design is clever, dark and ominous when it needs to be, and smart and playful when necessary, as is the lighting design from Ken Booth. 

The simple live musical accompaniment from Rod Bagheri, David Catalan and Nathan Johnson—with lyrics and music by Adrian Mitchell and Richard Peaslee—is also moody and effective, coloring scenes with a careful hand.

Orwell’s story rings true today, and sadly but likely,  will ring true for generations to come. It’s all in good hands with A Noise Within, and the acting and direction will leave you with much to think about on your way home and longer. Or else. 

“Animal Farm’ runs through October 2, 2022. A Noise Within is at 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA. More information is available at (626) 356-3100 or

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