Classics are done and re-done for a reason. Despite being an ancient piece of Greek drama, this play adapts remarkably well to modern society. At the heart, it is about making choices, lamenting your wrongs, and trying to do what is right in your heart. And those are all still things we discuss today.
Antigone, for those who didn’t study it in High School, is the third in the Oedipus Rex trilogy written by Sophocles somewhere around 440 B.C. Antigone and her sister Ismene are the last survivors of an incestuous marriage between Oedipus and his mother, Jocasta. There are two brothers also, Eteocles and Polynices. The brothers have fought against one another for the crown and both are dead. But the Uncle who raised them, Creon, is back on the throne and has taken a side. He says to bury Eteocles like a hero, and leave Polynices body to rot on the battlefield (a shameful insult in that era). Antigone, although in love with Creon’s son, disobeys and buries her brother. She is jailed for her crimes, and told that if she doesn’t reveal the location of the body, she will be executed. Yikes.
This adaptation is a bit more modernized than the original text. Although Sophocles is noted for using direct and modern wording, I doubt he wrote things like “right up the ass,” as the three women chant. William Hawthorne takes the stage first as King Creon. His fedora and walking stick, his pacing and gestures and pregnant pauses remind my of my childhood. I was raised in a Southern Baptist church and he nails the Southern Baptist Minister role. His presence is felt as soon as he walks out, he milks the lines for their full worth, and stops to involve the audience if they look lost or distraught.
Senetra Butler enters in her blue Grecian goddess gown complete with golden headdress (nice touch!). Her eyes grow wide with fear when she is cornered into a decision. My favorite was when she denies Haemon’s love for the sake of her brother. He is trying anything he can to show her affection and she just shrugs him off. You go girl. Haemon is played by Adam Zoellner, and maybe its his perfectly symmetrical face, or the perfect flop of his feathered hair, but he comes off as too squeaky clean. Even when he tries to defy his father and makes a mad dash at the end for his own life, it doesn’t feel quite as invested as it should.
Vanessa Quinlivan plays Ismene, the more timid of the siblings and the only one to survive this tragedy unscathed. So maybe we should put a little more stock in what she is preaching. Valerie Lewis plays Eurydice, the Queen. She takes her husband’s fits and outbursts like the Queen she is, regally, with her chin held high. Her best moment is her reaction to her son’s death. She was so overcome with emotion, and the scene went on for a few minutes, that most of the audience averted their eyes because it was so difficult to watch. Bravo. Logan James, Darius Alexander, and Keyon Harris play various guards- all in camo clothes with the brands taped out. One of them kept giggling through his lines, although funny, it seemed a bit out of place.
Peggy Friedman, Billie Taylor, and Carolyn Chissell are the chorus, all women in black long dresses and head scarves that they use for other accessories as the play progresses. Some of their lines were fumbled a bit, but the energy from them was good and overall a solidifying effect for the production. I like the fact that at different plot points I thought of them as the three witches, or the three fates, as well as a chorus. Nicely done.
The set is bare except for a chair with a red cloth thrown over it which is struck in Act 2. The costumes seem a bit hodge-podge, and no costumer is listed in the program (which were forgotten the day I went). I am assuming it mostly pieced together from what the actors already possessed. There is a suggested donation of $10 per person as you enter and some free snacks on the bar. That is always an appreciated kindness.
Barry Feinstein directed, and did the curtain speech to say this is the new home of the Theatrical Mining Company. This production is located on the bottom floor of the Downtown Cultural Arts Center on Howard Street. It saddened me to look in both directions and see more boarded up buildings than those in use. When I entered the music was loud and the bass was thumping. I thought, well damn, this ain’t your momma’s Antigone- but it was some sort of event. I was directed (no arrows or directions) to the lower level to find the play. The space is small but well laid out. There are tiered seats and small playing space with curtains on either side. There is a small tech booth and a few lights. It felt a little more like a high school auditorium, than a community theater production. Unfortunately, the upstairs party was in full swing and the music bumped all through the production. It was distracting to say the least. When I exited up the stairs I expected to see a full blown party, but there were 10-15 people milling about in a space with music you could hear for blocks. So the entire play was undercut with noise from a party that wasn’t hopping. Damn, that sucks.
All in all, I think Theatrical Mining Company is getting their feet wet and starting the arduous task of finding a space and making art, which I always commend. But the play as a whole had some rough patches, and could use a little more oomph, like that bass upstairs, to propel it into the limelight.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? I commend Theatrical Mining Company for daring and going for it and making art. This show has some seasoned actors who fit their roles, mixed with some young blood that need a little more work. It is a timely story, told in with a modern twist, in a cool old downtown building that is getting quite the over-booking. Keep your eyes peeled for these people, they are working their way up. (I)
Running time about 90 minutes with one ten-minute intermission. Through May 27th at the Downtown Cultural Arts Center, 401 N. Howard St.