The story of a young woman with immutable values, AU Theatre’s production of Jean Anouilh’s "Antigone" was vibrant and active, easily accessible for both those who are theater veterans or who have never seen a play before.
Following Antigone, the daughter of now-dead King Oedipus, as she attempts to bury her brother against the edict of the new king, the play spans no more than a day but still tells a complete and moving story through its strong actors.
Stark, gray and foreboding, the set’s biggest change in appearance happened with the different colors of light that play out in each scene. This works well, throwing the spotlight literally and figuratively on the actors themselves, not distracting from their compelling deliveries.
The minimalist set even followed the theme of Greek tragedy, as the Chorus stated that tragedy is both “restful” and “flawless” undisturbed from its certain conclusion regardless of what the characters themselves may do. This imposing setting added to the feeling of inevitability that the tragedy of Antigone elicits, and emphasized that each character is trapped in her role.
Even though the audience knew from the start that Antigone would die – having been told by the Chorus themselves – the tension of the play was not broken. On the contrary, this added pressure to it as watching Antigone climb ever closer to her story’s conclusion was dreadful.
Of course, the plot by itself cannot carry a play if its actors fail to deliver convincing performances, but this problem is not seen here. The Chorus, made up of Falan Buie-Madden, Teyonna Johnson and Jessi Rogers, was haunting and unnervingly omniscient as it should be. Dylan Renfrow as Haemon showed loyalty and love to Antigone, and Kaylie Horowitz, though a tad stiff at the start of the play, warmed to her role quickly and gave the audience an Antigone who is bold, alive and stubborn in the best way.
Creon, Antigone’s uncle and the king of Thebes stood out. London Carlisle played the reluctant king almost too well. The Chorus at the start of the play warned of Creon’s love of power, but he was nonetheless a very sympathetic character, and when his concern for both Antigone and the kingdom pulled him in separate directions, his choice was not only agonizing for him but also for those watching.
The only problem with the play came with the interesting choice to make it slightly modern. The costumes were definitely not traditionally Greek, with Creon donning a suit and the guards leather jackets and jeans, but those were fine. They did not distract from immersion, and they portrayed the characters well.
What does distract, however, was the language. It was accessible for those not used to listening to the traditional Sophocles play but at the cost of immersion. As a small example, the Chorus spoke of a well-oiled machine, an idiom that gained fame in the last several centuries. A better example, and the most egregious, happened when the Chorus said something was as easy as buying a second cup of coffee in one breath and threw out ancient Greek names like Etiocles and Polynices in the next. This was jarring, but it was not so much a fault of AU Theatre as it was of Jean Anouilh’s adapted script. These instances did not occur often, but when they did, they were noticeable.
Aside from this small gripe, Antigone is another triumph for the AU Theatre, providing a faithful and gripping production of the ancient Greek tragedy. Its stage design caters to the actors, and the actors’ powerful performances give life once again to a tale that has stood the test of time.