A TINY LITTLE OEDIPUS
BY RYAN M. LUÉVANO
A Noise Within Theatre Company brings this “tranquil” Greek tragedy to the people in their production of Antigone, based on Jean Anouilh‘s play inspired by Greek mythology and the Sophocles play of the same name from the fifth century B.C. What makes this version even more rare—it is the world premiere of a new the adaption and translation by Robertson Dean, who also directed this play. In a time when modern audiences are far removed from the classic works of Sophocles, ANW sets Antigone in the 20th century and brings her story to fruition once again for modern audiences.
This version of Antigone focuses the drama by reducing the cast from twelve to eight, removing the extra guards, the messenger, Page and Eurydice—though technically Eurydice is still among players as she is represented by a tiny doll, watching the show from the stage. Inger Tudor expertly performs the role of chorus, our captain, guiding the audience through the tempestuous waters of the drama. Furthermore, the role of chorus is expanded as Tudor begins to get caught up in the drama, making a quick transition from observer to participant. This dramatic choice serves to take the audience deeper into the story—it’s as if the stakes become so high that the captain of the ship jumps into murky waters to battle the demons right before our eyes.
Sophocles’ belief that women had only two purposes in life: to burry the dead and bear sons is realized in Antigone as she gives her life to provide a proper burial for her slain brother Polynices—going against the mandate of her uncle, the king. Upon Antigone’s (Emily James) first entrance, the audience is entranced by her unyielding zest for life and fearless character—we know at that moment that she is on a path for which no one can impede. At approximately 5’1’’, James gives a performance that is larger than life—she offers everything in her body to successfully play the infamous tragic heroine. Even though the audience knows of Antigone’s impending death, they still sit in their seats silently rooting for her—James is a robust and beautiful gladiator who’s won the hearts of its people.
Standing over a foot beyond Antigone (James), Creon, the King of Thebes (Eric Curtis Johnson) proves to be no match for her determination. Johnson offers a meaningful and dynamic performance that projects all the burdens associated with power as he lives and breathes this complex Sophocles character on stage.
The most unpredictably intriguing character in this production is the guard (Stephen Weingartner) who in his own sardonic way brings un air de comédie to this tragédie. Weingartner transforms this stoic role into a character with depth and an amusing personality.
The direction by Robertson Dean is smart and calculated—everything happens for a reason. His players have successfully brought the ancient Antigone to light for today’s audiences.
Take in a Greek tragedy at A Noise Within in Pasadena—you will be glad you did! Antigone is a powerful production that will make you think twice about what it really means to say “No.” Antigone is part of the 2015 fall repertory season at ANW and runs until November 20th.