BWW Review: THE ANTIPODES Whip Smart Superbly Performed Examination of Story Telling

BWW Review: THE ANTIPODES Whip Smart Superbly Performed Examination of Story Telling

"The rest of the world might be going to hell, but stories are better than ever," says Sandy (Tom Green), the boss and leader of the think tank in THE ANTIPODES, the newest play from Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Baker currently on stage at Hyde Park Theatre in what is the second production of this fascinating new work. Hyde Park has a history of producing her plays, most recently having staged both John and The Flick. In THE ANTIPODES, Baker examines the very nature of story telling and also has some fun with the concept of time and how it is perceived. It is also interesting to note that the definition of antipodes is "the opposite". Baker, in the very construct of the play, is giving us the opposite of traditional plot structure. Sandy reveals a great deal of what Baker is attempting to accomplish in his early remarks to the group: "If you think about the greatest thinkers in world history: Jesus, Socrates, Confucius; None of those guys recorded anything or wrote anything down. And what we know about them we know through other people telling stories about their stories. Could we go back to the beginning? Could we remake our collective unconscious?"

In THE ANTIPODES, Baker has assembled a group of eight people in a corporate meeting room environment to brainstorm about stories and story telling who are tasked to come up with a new original story. What the end use of that story will be is never clearly delineated, but subtle clues seemed to me to probably be destined as a video game. While on paper this sounds like a snooze fest, the end result is anything but. This production is thoroughly engaging and whip smart with a lot of extremely funny and thought provoking moments.

At one point, each person is asked to give their opinion on the concept of time. One theory given, that seemed to keep coming up, and fits with the structure, is the image of time being circular. The proverbial snake eating it's own tail. That seems to be what is going on here in this meeting...or rather, series of meetings. Passage of time is mostly indicated by Sarah (Maria Latiolais), the secretary whose outfit changes every time she enters the room. And, there are some other clever slight of hand bits that catch you off guard; notably, a sweater being knit by Eleanor (Anne Hulsman), that magically pops up in various stages of creation. This is a neat trick considering the fact that there are only two characters who ever leave the stage and reenter.

THE ANTIPODES features stellar ensemble work from this entire company. The cast features Lowell Bartholomee, Tom Green, Anne Hulsman, Maria Latiolais, Saurabh Pradhan, Blake Robbins, Mical Trejo, Shanon Weaver, and Dave Yakubik. Everyone works as a whole although each individual cast member has their own moment to shine...and shine they most certainly do. To single out any individual performance seems to me to be contrary to the nature of the piece. Director Ken Webster has done a beautiful job keeping a show where the actors are anchored to the constraints of a meeting room alive and engaging. Webster's deft hand keeps the show from being talky and static.

Once again we are treated to another marvelous set by Mark Pickell that captures a modern corporate office room while cleverly hinting at a hive mind environment with the honeycomb design of the desk and wall storage. Cheryl Painter's costumes are perfect and subtle in their changes. Robert S. Fisher's sound design is extremely effective, especially the garbled teleconference anyone in corporate meeting environments will identify with. It's not often a sound plot gets laughs.

One of the greatest moments for me was when the best story the group has come up with is the one that wasn't captured because of a life moment that was even more of a great story that the group dismisses. Blindness due to proximity, something we're all subject to on a daily basis.

In short THE ANTIPODES is a superb evening of theatre that will make you laugh and give you plenty of food for thought long after the curtain call. The best kind of theatrical experience you can hope for. I highly recommend you catch this one.

THE ANTIPODES by Annie Baker
Running Time: One Hour and Forty Seven Minutes with no intermission

THE ANTIPODES produced by Hyde Park Theatre (511 West 43rd Street, Austin, TX, 78751).
Thursdays-Saturdays, July 05 - August 04, 2018 at 8 PM
Thursdays are Pay What You Can Nights at the door. For the first four weeks (July 5 - 28), Friday tickets are $22 and Saturday tickets are $24. For the final weekend (August 2 - 4), Friday tickets are $24 and Saturday tickets are $26. Tickets are $2 off for students, seniors, military, and Austin Creative Alliance/Austin Film Society members). Purchase tickets online or call 512-479-PLAY (7529) for reservations.

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From This Author Frank Benge