A shameful family history. An irrevocable decree. An obligation to one’s flesh and blood. A girl, forced by faith to become a woman.
This year, second year Western student, Camille Intson, fearlessly chose to direct Antigone, a subtle yet riveting Greek Tragedy about a girl who insists on giving her brother a proper burial despite the death sentence set on it by her uncle, King Creon. The play is comprised of surprising dialogues, three-dimensional characters, and tense situations. After weaving one’s way through Fanshawe’s gallery of dramatically lit, still photographs--now on display in the Arts Project--audiences stumble into a small room further suspended in time than Fanshawe’s photographs: the stage floor is nearly barren save for a long table and two chairs; this sparse furniture stands in front of a screen displaying videographer Erik Bajzert’s looping, blue-tinged projection of labyrinthine film sequences ranging in theme from rehearsals to madness. Overhead, fluttering pages from the source text dangle from silver threads, spinning and reflecting light like wind chimes or fractured shards of a lost ancient world that can only be revivified through re-enactment. All the while, an all-pervasive, throbbing red glare tinges viewers with the unsettling feeling that they, and not Antigone, are the subjects of this dramatic inquisition.
True to this production’s roots in ancient Greece, characters enter the stage in a somber procession, holding flickering candles and wearing expressionless white masks. The sound of a beating drum sets the solemn tone that for the most part—though not entirely—characterizes the production. Once all have entered, one by one, the chorus introduces each character to the audience and removes their mask. The chorus--a balanced mixture of males and females, expertly outfitted in unobtrusive, modern black clothing--serve as our guides and often serve as manifestations of characters’ thoughts. The fluidity with which the chorus turn from addressing audience members to the cast erodes the boundaries between the two, creating an effect of a shared single consciousness. While humorous at times, the chorus’ direct engagement with the audience is also an equalizing force and exposes everyone to their scrutinizing and unwavering judgment.
Nancy Xu’s costumes, though each in its own way befitting to the wearers’ varying personas, seemed indecisive in era: the king and the chorus wore modern black suits, while the guards wore vintage, oversized long-coats with shoulder pads and detective badges; Antigone (Andrea Holstein), with her green tunic, sash, and strappy gladiator-like sandals, though whimsical, seemed slightly out of place. The most powerful—and perhaps most cohesive—element of costume was the makeup, headed by Stefanie Karasavidis: the bold red lip of each female chorus member, together with their and Antigone’s prominently contoured cheekbones truly “highlight” these women’s strength of will and moral conviction, a major theme in the play. Xu’s staging and props, though sparse, effectively served their purpose: a fresh tablecloth or adding a few books here and there sufficiently altered the backdrop while still giving the actors ample room to explore the space and their characters.
The acting in this production is unmistakably the driving force of this show. More so than adjustments made to the setting, the shifting interactions and power plays between contrasting characters are what shift the tone and pace of the performance. Holstein expertly cycles through the intensely brave and emotionally weak states of Antigone, while Kelli Prince provides a familiar and endearing foil with her characterization of Antigone’s beloved Nurse. Stephen Ingram made Haemon, Antigone’s fiancé, both romantic and likable, though I was most blown away by Nyiri Karakas’ raw and realistic portrayal of Ismene. Kevin Heslop played the part of uncompromising yet three-dimensional antagonist, King Creon, considerably well, though he often resorted to shouting in moments of doubt and frustration when perhaps combining shouts with more varied and subtle inflections of tone would have communicated these conflicting emotions equally effectively. I particularly enjoyed the much-needed comedic relief presented by Creon’s bumbling though somehow likeable guards (Spencer Chaisson, Abraham Rogers, Yoni Gootgarts). Roles within the chorus were also well-suited for each actor’s strengths: Paul Scala’s deep, baritone voice was perfectly suited for somber narration, while fellow Chorus member, Chiara Pellegrino, often shifted the tone into comedic territory. Despite a small number of faltered lines, for the most part lines were spoken with fluidity, expression and conviction.
All in all, Intson’s masterful rendition ofAntigone was intensely captivating from start to finish, and it was over before I even had time to desire an intermission. Definitely a must-see for theatre-lovers and classics students alike, this play will leave you breathless and motivated to take up a faceless mask and take on Antigone’s role for the modern generation.
Antigone will continue at the Arts Project until March 11. For tickets and more information, visit the Facebook Page