A production of George Orwell’s 1984 comes with its own set of questions. How do you perform a very political story without making a political play? Or rather, how does a production handle Orwell’s critiques of the totalitarian state without hammering (and sickling?) the audience over the head with them? Those problems are well-handled in the show currently playing at Washington, D.C.’s Shakespeare Theater Company.From the moment the curtain opens to its stripped down set and oversized screen, the play is both televised and textual. It seeks to both depict the story and show the importance of the book itself — a difficult balance.In the first half of the play, though, the performance stumbles as it tries to find its feet. At first it isn’t clear if we are supposed to be reading the story alongside a contemporary book club, or if the play is trying to liken the numerous telescreens of 1984 to the ringing phone that interrupts the group discussion. Behind the actors hangs an oversized screen running the length of the stage, but is this just a means of showing what sits on Winston’s table?