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TheatreLab The Antigone Project

By • Nov 9th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
The Antigone Project
TheatreLab
Gallery5, Richmond, VA
Closed November 4th
Reviewed October 30th, 2012

Antigone. What do you think of when you hear the name “Antigone?” I’m quite sure that most of you will think of your high school English class where you were tortured into reading this traditional Greek tragedy. Upon arriving at Gallery 5, for the first performance of The Antigone Project, I quickly realized that this was certainly not going to be the traditional torture I once lived through.

Firstly, I must explain that this production was a devised adaptation of the original Greek play, Antigone. For those who don’t know what a devised adaptation is, it is a type of theatre where the script originates from collaborative work, typically improvisatory, by a group of people rather than one writer. The performers usually write it, but it’s not necessary. Normally, I am not a fan of these sorts of productions due to my perfectionist propensities. One must keep in mind that this is more of a performance piece than a play.

The topic of this adaptation was “media killing the celebrity.” I felt that they sort of missed the mark on this one. Even though different forms of media were used in the set and the odes, nothing of it was spoken of in the dialogue. So, when the scene “Fashion Ambulance” began, it felt very out-of-place. I really would have loved to see that type of theme and enthusiasm in that scene depicted throughout the entire piece.

Something that did, however, make this piece unique were the prerecorded choral odes. Each of these odes would play with a media laden collage showing stock footage of current events. These images tied in with the scenes that the chorus was speaking of. I thought this was interesting because typically the chorus slates these odes live and directly to the audience, basically telling a story. The decision was made to prerecord these odes due to the lack of having each cast member present for rehearsal and that asking the actors to memorize many 8-couplet odes in less than a month would be impossible. I felt that, even though they were hard to hear at times, it still delivered that “media feel.”

I really enjoyed the set of this production. Even though it was small, they utilized almost every inch of the space down to the last few inches between the cast and the audience. The stage was a sort of thrust stage meets Greek arena. It was surrounded on three sides, like a thrust stage, but the acting space was level with the audience. A mat of newspapers and tabloids squared out the stage in the center. Behind that was the apron of a stage with old TVs stacked on either corner playing the dreaded static from the “bunny ear” days. A podium wrapped in cords and cables was off set with a giant projection screen behind it. I began to see what this adaptation was going to entail, media and the death of a celebrity.

From the start of play there was great choreography. It opens with the actors filing in from off stage locations. They begin to rhythmically walk through the small square of the thrust in a grid like pattern until all the actors were marching in chaotic formation. Suddenly, two of the actors slam into each other with a loud scream, startling the audience, and went back to formation. This happened two more times until the actors cleared except for the two men. They begin to fight. We realize that this is the battle of Antigone’s two brothers. This great choreography continued throughout the piece in different and exciting ways.

However, the same cannot be said for some of the blocking. When using a stage surrounded on three sides, you really have to think about the viewpoints of the entire audience. Many times I was left unable to see one, or all, of the actor’s faces. This led me to lean into the person next to me, hoping to see the expression on the actor’s face. This caused to disconnect from the play during those moments. I would have liked to see the actors more “cut out,” or angled, so that each audience member can experience what is happening.

I have to commend TheatreLab on a fantastic casting job. Maggie Roop delivered a wonderful performance of her role as Antigone, reminiscent of traditional Greek Theatre. It is clear to see why she is also the Directing Manager for TheatreLab. The “guest artist” of the evening was Stephen Ryan. His portrayal of the sinister Crion was nearly spot-on. Why nearly? Crion seemed to have far too much comic relief. Comic relief is definitely necessary in a tragedy, yet I felt that this piece’s comic relief was misplaced. Mary Shaw who portrayed the seer, Tiresias, took me away. I could not keep my eyes off of her whenever she was on stage. There was something about her that just made you look toward her.

When speaking to the cast and director at the “Talk Back,” immediately after the performance, Deejay Gray (Director) stated that not all of his actors were present for any rehearsal until the opening night; the night I attended. Personally, I might have died if a show of mine was going up without a single rehearsal with the entire cast present. However, they seemed to pull it off with only a few minor problems with the fluidity of the scenes.

When looking back at the production in its entirety, the TheatreLab did a pretty good job on their first devised adaptation. And, when speaking to the director, one on one, he told me that we’re definitely going to see more of these in the company’s future. They certainly have some things to work on to clean it up, but Deejay Gray is adamant on the fact that The Antigone Project was more of a performance piece and the process in which they got there, than it was a play. Even though I’m a complete perfectionist, I definitely enjoyed watching The Antigone Project and can’t wait to see what comes next from the TheatreLab.

Cast

  • Antigone: Maggie Roop (Managing Director)
  • Crion: Stephen Ryan
  • Ismene: Eleanore Bellamy
  • Polynices/Ensemble: Mauricio Marc├ęs
  • Eteocles/Ensemble: Bryan Lamorena
  • Tiresias/Ensemble: Mary Shaw (Marketing Director)
  • Guard/Ensemble: Elisabeth Ashby
  • Guard/Ensemble: Michael Musatow
  • Messenger/Ensemble: Theresa Mantiply
  • Messenger/Ensemble: Maggie Bavolack

Designers

  • Director: Deejay Gray
  • Produced by: TheatreLab

Disclaimer: TheatreLab provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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