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REVIEW: Trinity’s “Dreams of Antigone”

Trinity Repertory Company, Providence Rhode Island (2008)


At first glance upon stepping into the theatre, one could possibly believe that they were about to witness an off day performance.  The set appeared cluttered with building materials, such as scaffolding and buckets.  My first impression was one of curiosity:  was the show going to start late, so that stage hands could tidy up?  But alas, the story began.  The actors filtered out on to the stage and within moments, those building materials were magically transformed into props, a catalyst for a common theme of utility throughout the presentation; one that would capitalize on the economical use of stage, theatre, and props expected of quality repertory performance.

The scaffolding, at one time doubling as the ceiling of a kitchen and later effectively (and artistically) used as a vehicle to convey battle, was likely used at some point to dress the set.  This minimalist use, while cutting the cost of production, took away the glitter of “the prop” to further assist the viewer in focusing on the weight of the presentation.  The costumes, not set to period, and not exactly “our own,” were simple enough for the audience to show that a “dress is a dress” and a “uniform is a uniform,” so that this performance was not necessarily “our time,” but “anytime.”  The use of colors helped to differentiate flashback/dream scenes from “the reality”.  The striking uses of black and white in the officers uniforms, made it simple enough to know you were witnessing something that had passed, and that those in white were conspicuously absent from that reality.  You could almost immediately surmise that these men are the dead that which this story revolves around.

The characters were people we could empathize with:  Antigone’s distress over the loss of loved ones and her commitment to do what she sees as morally right; and Creon’s dilemma as a person in a position of power that has to live with the consequence of a hasty executive decision.  All of this is presented in language, mannerisms, and attitudes familiar to the audience.  These were no longer the ancient Greeks, but friends and neighbors; real people.  The “chorus” has been turned into the voice of the “crowd”.  Really, as it has always been, but now adapted and modernized in an artful way that carries the tradition to a fresh set of eyes and ears; representing the “crowd” in our current dictionary definition understanding of it.

Though it would be beneficial, isn’t necessary to have read the original story of Antigone or Oedipus.  This performance deviates from a direct telling, providing the exposition of the Theban plays that catches the viewer up, condensing the saga for thorough understanding in a two hour or so time period.  It looks at the story in a new way, but still keeps the substance and message of the original; the creative force behind the performance has tailored dialogue to the modern audience, providing fresh language and perspective to a timeless story of individual tragedy and political tyranny.  A Greek classic told again, cognizant of the strength of the original’s power to resonate through strong performance and quality oration to tell a struggle that still has relevance in modern times.

IMAGE: http://tristan-jeffers.squarespace.com/dreams-of-antigone/

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