BWW Review: ANTIGONE at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre
Antigone at The Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, adapted by Jean Anouilh, and directed by Karen Paisley
French playwright Jean Anouil's retelling of Sophocles's classic tale of Antigone captures the rebellious nature of youth and the weight of burden placed on those in positions of power around them. Censored by the Nazi's in it's day, for its thinly veiled rebuke, it has remained one of Anouil's most frequently produced works. Now at the MET, under the skilled direction of Karen Paisley, is an even more current retelling of the story that plays amazingly relevant in today's divisive world political climate.
As the story opens we find Creon has ascended the throne left vacant by the deaths of King Oedipus and his two sons. Oedipus two daughters, Antigone and Ismene, mourn their brothers, yet uncle King Creon, in a politically expedient move, makes one brother a scapegoat and refuses to allow him a proper burial. Antigone's rebellious nature gets the best of her in spite of the fact that she has accepted a marriage proposal from prince Haemon (King Creon's son). Though they are truly in love, the pangs of family honor transcend any desire for happiness. In response King Creon, whom Antigone has backed into a corner, orders her execution for defying him and disobeying his direct orders.
Elise Campagna's portrayal of Antigone fully captures the youthful nature of ideological rebellion. Campagna's ability to quickly move from tears to joy to angry fighter allow her to deftly bring her antagonist to the breaking point. Kimberly Horner (as her sister Ismene), crafts a more fragile creature who craves the strength her sister shows, but is seen by others simply as the pretty one. Falling comfortably into her aesthetic stereotype makes her escape from that role her greatest challenge. Michael David Allen (as Haemon) seems somewhat oblivious to the precarious position Antigone is placing herself in and assumes she will come to her senses through their love. Allen plays the character's naiveté well as, too late, he realizes that his love is fated for a tragic end.
Enter Andy Penn (Creon) as the conflicted antagonist to Antigone. Penn gives initial warmth to the role that speaks to Creon's love of art and desire for social order. Penn wears well the mantle of suffering under the burden of rule that the role of Creon calls for. He propels the story as he aptly courses each of the character's dynamic transitions. Alan Tilson (Prologue) provides a well-honed narrative as the story unfolds, and the remaining characters fit well into making this updated version successful.
Contemporary "remakes" are challenging and Antigone is no exception. Some of the ancient cultural references have few current parallels and require some bending to make them fit. In the USA we have a line of succession politically, but it doesn't involve birthright or inheritance. Translating these old cultural references can weaken some shows, but (under Paisley's direction) it breathes new life into the old story. Having rearranged the entire theater seating and utilizing the space in a fresh way adds to anticipation of this adaptation. This talented ensemble deserves a full house every night to appreciate all they bring to this imaginative tale, and audiences deserve to see such a treat.
Antigone runs September 14- October 1st and tickets can be purchased through MetKC.org or call 816-569-3226