BWW Review: Resistance Takes its Toll in The Seeing Place Theater's THE PEOPLE VS ANTIGONE
With an undying stubbornness, an unbridled resistance against what she believes is wrong and the courage to stand for said beliefs in the aftermaths of war and death, young Antigone is the epitome of what it means to live with not just hope, but with purpose. Regardless of her gender or the rights she was given, she portrayed the universal need to bear her soul to the world - to represent individuality in the face of extreme adversity. This is something people forget even today - in the midst of something so grand as war or even as mundane as coming to work each day, we are all human beings striving to keep our humanity among the masses - to keep our identity against what we are told we must do or represent.
Antigone was such a force that is as prevalent in her world as in ours; even though she was brought to her own demise, her desire to see her brother's humanity sprout from the tyranny of her father in law's rule is inspiring. The People vs. Antigone is a modern interpretation of Sophocles' epic tragedy that really does well to show the people how reason can hardly ever win in the terms set by the human heart.
Adapted and directed by Brandon Walker and presented by The Seeing Place Theater, The People vs. Antigone recently concluded its run at the Paradise Factory; it was one of three shows presented as part of the Whistleblower series. Depicting the "odd man (or woman) out" as the tragic hero of their own story, the audience is given a chance to understand the dynamics of one who fights against an authority that strips people of their right to be human beings - all with the irony of supposedly doing it for the people. How can we understand a person who doesn't simply comply with what she is told, or accept what so blatantly shouldn't be? In an era where everyone seems to have a purpose or agenda, a zealousness to their step when standing up for the world's injustices, do they look at the wrongs being done or simply recognize their part of a movement towards something?
The People vs. Antigone is so wonderful a show not just because of its stellar and talented cast, but also because it has the ability to break down, circle and return many times to the reasoning behind a decision, a choice: why is Antigone not allowed to bury her slain brother? What does that mean?
For those not familiar with Antigone's tale, it is a classic Greek tragedy that has very little light to penetrate the cracks of its characters' lives. Antigone and her sister Ismene are the two surviving children of King Oedipus; the story begins at a time of mourning, as the two grieve over the death of their two brothers who had just fought to the death. The sisters live with the family of Antigone's fiancé, Haemon; but, with the recent deaths and her father-in-law Creon's refusal to bury her brother Polynices, a wedding is her last concern.
When Antigone returns home the morning of the wedding, covered in dirt and looking less than desirable, she is coaxed in every way possible to squash her hesitancy to wed young Haemon and put on a happy face. This is near impossible: she is at war with her father-in-laws immoral decision to keep the people pacified rather than bury her brother, and she refuses to marry his son under such unethical circumstances. Until the very end, Antigone represents the true spirit of rebellion - a young woman fighting to keep a person's humanity in tact even when the "people" need a hero and a villain to their story. This story begs the question: do we lose ourselves in the demands of the people, of the collective, when an individual's humanity is at stake?
Not only is The People vs. Antigone very well done, it brings up so many ethical questions that are then so properly explained and dissected to the point of absolute reason. Many people may look at Antigone as a hero, remaining strong in the presence and probability of death; others may see her as foolish, sacrificing her life all because her brother, a "monster" of a man who murdered innocent people, was not deemed fit to give a proper burial. There is the question of what kind of person deserves to be treated as a human being, and who has the authority to determine such things. There were many great aspects of this show, but my favorite is its ability to break such a complicated moral predicament down into terms that even Antigone can understand - still she persists, even if not rationally sound in her denial. My favorite moments in the show lie in Creon's explanations of why the late Polynices was ultimately wronged in death. I always envision the world as a better place if people can simply sit down and talk; it is hard not to acknowledge the rationality behind something, even though your emotions may reject what is being said.
The People vs. Antigone perpetually asks the audience not only why Creon is right (in my opinion), but how far a person should go to prove a point; when does it becomes less about the wronged party and more about the other person's need to make a point and be heard? Antigone is a strong-willed character who has a cause, but she is blinded by her stubbornness; even in the face of death does she fight for the need to be "right." I thoroughly enjoyed these deductive conversations and the sheer effort put into making it as difficult as possible to have the audience refute what Creon is saying; it is a task indeed, which is what makes this show so spectacular.
In addition to Walker's writing, his choice of cast was wonderful; each truly brought their characters to such an extreme level of life, the audience cannot help but be consumed by what they stand for. Alan Altschuler, Joshua George, Isa Goldberg, Clinton Powell, Sabrina Schlegel-Mejia and Gaia Visnar really do a wonderful job bringing Antigone's tragic story to the stage in a whole new light. I was taken by Sabrina's sheer emotion, while Alan's refusal to change his view as he navigates through an almost separate set of characters himself, was very impressive. Credit must also be given to John Salutz as Lighting Designer, Erin Cronican as Set and Costume Designer, Brandon Walker as Sound Designer, L. Wilson-Spiro as Projection Designer, Marlee Weinberg as Assistant Projection Designer, Nickie Dubick as Assistant Scenic Designer and Trey Tetreault as Stage Manager.
The People vs. Antigone, a true success of a show, was presented by the Seeing Place Theater from April 21st-May 13that the Paradise Factory (located as 64 East 4th Street). It was part of the Whistleblower Series, which included I Am My Own Wife and My Name is Rachel Corrie. Please visit wwe.theseeingplace.com for more information on upcoming productions.
Photo Credit: Russ Rowland