By Bob Evans
Set in motion by an apt narration performed by Alan Tilson, “Antigone,” the Greek tragedy originally penned by Sophocles and now adapted by Jean Anouilh, explains the difference between tragedy and drama in Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre’s season opener.
As a tragedy, the audience knows beforehand that no escape avails itself to the principals and that many times situations dictate a person’s destiny and they have little control as events play out. Such is the case with the main character, Antigone. Even as a young lady and princess, she understands her family duty and her predetermined tragic ending. She finds herself caught between loyalty to family and commands of the king, Creon. To save her deceased brother’s soul from wandering the earth forever, Antigone chooses to bury him to avoid his being a feast to varmints and foul. Her uncle, King Creon wants the stench of the decaying body to permeate the town so people know what happens to traitors against the king.
The play becomes a battle of will between the evil King Creon and his brother’s youngest daughter, Antigone. The play, “Antigone” follows Sophocles’ more famous play, “Oedipus Rex.” Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus Rex and one of his four children. His two sons have just been killed with one buried as an honored prince and the other left unceremoniously to rot.
The play, performed in modern clothing and dialogue, occurs on top of a stars and stripes floor, giving the audience the opportunity to compare the ancient tragedy to current political tensions. While no parallels of such come from the play, the setting and political charges of the play do create talking points and encourage discussion. Is Antigone a martyr, a victim, a winner? Could King Creon be a tragic hero? Could he be the victim of his own pride? Could Creon have made different choices to avoid the tragic end? Is he the victor or victim? “Antigone” presents many questions for the audience to ponder.
Artistic Director Karen Paisley chose a politically- themed play when selecting her season for the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, a theatre built on presenting challenging classic plays appropriate for another viewing. “Antigone,” seldom produced fits that criteria without question. Using the adaptation by Anouilh put the tragedy current, concerning the national feeling of unrest and disagreement. Those who may feel the selection is beyond their realm need to know that the addition of the prologue and the delivery by the narrator gives the appropriate background for the play’s format to flow freely and naturally.
Casting, always a strength of MET productions continues with this production. The play opens with a seasoned performance by Alan Tilson delivering the prologue and then narrating as the show continues. As the actors flow in and out of scenes, their characters continue to build and develop. Elise Campangna as Antigone and Andy Penn as King Creon lead the cast. Their arguments bring the drama as they flow freely from aggressor to victim and visa-versa as each argument unfurls. Both give strong characters and dominate the performance space.
Others in the cast that give strong performances are Alan Tilson as the narrator, Nancy Marcy as Antigone’s nurse, and Brian Dusky as guard who fears for his life after discovering an attempt to bury Antigone’s brother. Their characters bring a rich texture to the play.
Others in the cast include: Michael David Allen as Haemon, Kimberly Horner as Ismene, Megan Wagner as Messenger, Christopher Prayer as Guard 2, Brandon Hedger as Guard 3, Ryan Tucker as Eurydice, Jacque Davidson as The Page.
“Antigone” continues through Oct. 1 at midtown’s Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre. Tickets may be purchased at the door or through the MET’s website.
Tags: “Antigone”, Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment