BWW Reviews: Upstream Theater's Masterful Production of ANTIGONE

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I've been privileged to see several versions of Greek playwright Sophocles' 2500 year old work Antigone over the years. All of them have been good, and each of them has been uniquely different. A version I caught at a college even went so far as to incorporate the traditional masks that were utilized for the original productions. But, David R. Slavitt's translation is, by far, the most intriguing and accessible version I've ever seen. With the inclusion of a dash of humor to the proceedings he's also managed to enhance the dramatic depth of the tale. Upstream Theater's current production is masterful and powerful in equal measure, providing a memorable experience that demands to be seen.

Antigone has decided to bury her brother Polyneices, even though her Uncle, King Creon, has branded him an enemy of the state. It seems Eteocles refusal to share the throne with his brother led Polyneices to attack his own city to try and regain the crown. Though both died in battle, Polyneices is left to rot as a rebel, rather than being properly prepared for his journey to the afterlife. But Antigone, his sister, breaks the law and is arrested. Despite their relationship, he sentences her to die for this transgression. However, this angers the populace and the Gods, leading to the suicides of his son,wife and niece.

Maggie Conroy is strong and assured as Antigone, refusing to bow to her Uncle's will, even though it was a common practice to leave perceived traitors and opposing forces on the battlefield as carrion. Peter Mayer is simply amazing as Creon, stubbornly sticking by his decision, even though it is not a popular one. Wendy Renee Greenwood pulls double duty as Antigone's sister, who understands her sister's desire to see her brother properly interned, but advises her against it, and as the noble, but conflicted Eurydice. Andrew Michael Neiman does fine work as Haemon, Creon's son, who tries to convince his father that he's making a mistake, while also trying to remain dutiful. John Bratkowski also plays a dual role, injecting some levity as a guard, while also providing a voice of reason as blind soothsayer Tiresias. Nancy Lewis enlivens the action as a messenger, and Dennis Lebby, Norman McGowan, and Patrick Siler do a marvelous job as the chorus, adding interesting and engaging rhythmic sounds, while attempting to appease their king and act as the voice of his subjects.

Philip Boehm's direction draws intense and committed performances from his actors, and he makes this play a thoroughly fascinating experience in the process. Michael Heil's scenic design captures the imagination with painted backdrops and staging (James van Well and Cristie Johnston are the artists) that reflect the conflict between Eteocles and Polyneices, and he's aided by Claudia Horn's effective props. Steve Carmichael's lighting also adds greatly to the overall mood, and LaLonnie Lehman's costumes, with the odd exception of Creon's more modern attire, lend an air of authenticity.

Upstream Theater's production of Antigone is a true must-see, bringing a classic to life with unparalleled brilliance. Check it out at the Kranzberg Arts Center through October 26, 2014.

Photo credit: Peter Wochniak

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From This Author Chris Gibson