ANTIGONE: Death at the Parthenon

Presented by Flat Earth Theatre
Original Tragedy by Sophocles
Adapted by Lewis Galantiere from the play by Jean Anouilh
Directed by Lindsay Eagle

ONE WEEK LEFT: March 26th @ 7:30pm; March 29th @ 8pm; March 30th @ 8pm; March 31st @ 8pm
The Black Box at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal St., Watertown, Massachusetts 02472
From the MBTA — take the Red Line to Central Square in Cambridge; then take the 70 or the 70A bus.
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Review by Bishop C. Knight

(Watertown, MA) I could provide an enthusiastic review for every aspect of this play.  I will start with a nod to costuming.

In this multiracial adaptation of Antigone, the chorus was comprised of Elbert Joseph who is a Black Deaf actor, Emily Elmore who is an actress with a background in Hearing and Deafness, and LAMDA-trained thespian Michael Ciszewski.  Their costumes were vagabond military style with hooded robes, walking boots, and messenger bags. The threesome performed unitedly through the entire production, introducing and narrating the play till they concluded the story after Antigone’s death, creating a mood that was involved, serious, moving and morally bellicose.  

This chorus was the audience’s pillar of strength, frequently breaking the fourth wall throughout this retelling of tragic Antigone, and optically their costuming reminded me that they three were the characters in this ensemble cast who constituted universal natural law.  Yet, in contrast to their masculated fashion style, when this trio of performers nonverbally communicated employing hands gestures and body posture, they appeared choreographed in fluid syncopated routines.  The chorus was my favored presence in this play, as these three were a great triad together. I hope that Elbert Joseph, Emily Elmore, and Michael Ciszewski – who performed masterfully in both spoken English and American Sign Language  – feel very proud of the contributions they are making to the theatre community with their bold and intricate interpretation of a Greek Chorus.

The show I attended truly was a progressive and welcoming community event.  I sat with the parents of the technical advisor Leigh Downes. One of the actor’s moms sat behind me, as well as the wife of actor George Page.  I saw a neighbor I’ve known for a decade, and house staff included a transgender usher, plus one house manager who communicated with deaf patrons using American Sign Language.  However, the most contemporary production decision was to cast the proud character of Antigone as a young Black woman.

Antigone is performed by Regine Vital, who is a teacher and actress from Somerville, Massachusetts.  One aid in the development of the Antigone character was Vital’s hair and makeup, and I don’t write that in an objectifying way.  As the daughter/sister of King Oedipus, Antigone could have fallen into the female stereotype of a meticulously manicured princess exclusively in search of true love.  At the beginning of the play, Vital’s Antigone is quite composed and well-kept with a natural makeup job and beautifully combed afro. As the story of this family feud unfolds and Antigone twice undertakes the physical labor of burying her dead brother Polynices, Vital’s face is increasingly smeared with the black of dirt, which is streaked by the actress’ passionate tears, and her healthy bob of natural hair become increasingly unkempt.  At the end of the play, moments before being put to death by her Uncle Creon, Antigone voluntarily sheds the last guise of royalty when she takes off and gives her ornate ring to the guard presiding over her death row. The audience last sees Antigone in her prison cell – smeared with dirt, hair wild, stripped of a princess’ high fashion, the essence of individualism and human dignity when she looks to the audience and bravely whispers “I am all alone.” That’s when she becomes our martyr and heroine.

I went to a school with a classical and neoclassical curricula. I read copious Greek shit, which I continue to reread and love heartedly.  After The Odyssey, Antigone ranks as my second favorite Greek tragedy.  I’ve been thrilled that this play here in Boston.  I’m blown over by how perfectly it has been produced and performed.  Flat Earth’s ASL-interpreted performance runs for only one more week, and tickets are selling out.  (If you go online and get a sold-out response, call the box office.) Each actor will win you over for their own unique reason.  You will walk away with deeper insights in fate, feminism, and family.

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