‘Antigone’ at Glass Mind Theatre by Amanda Gunther

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Piety shown the dead is pity in vain. Though your loyal reverence will not be wasted if you come out to see the Glass Mind Theatre’s unique adaptation of Antigone as the final production of ‘Season 3: Classics Resketched.’ Adapted and Directed by Lynn Morton, this production takes a new spin on the tragic Greek classic. Collaging not one or two but five scripts together, Morton pulls text from Oedipus, the rarely produced Oedipus at Colonus and includes three different versions of Antigone. This hybrid blend of texts allows for the audience to more fully see Morton’s vision, highlighting how one’s actions affect the lives of many. Condensed into just 90 minutes, the key focal points of Antigone are brought to the forefront; the production a well-paced intense success.

Oedipus (Matthew Casella) and Teiresias (Vince Constantino). Photo by  Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.
Oedipus (Matthew Casella) and Teiresias (Vince Constantino). Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.

Scenic Designer Michelle Datz utilizes the natural ruins of the EMP Collective’s interior to her advantage in crafting a classic yet timeless looking stage upon which the play unfurls. Strategically focusing the set’s center around the load-bearing support columns and draping white gauze from the ceilings pays homage to the garments and styles of the ancient Greek era. Streamers of pink and black accent Datz’s design work, and the three tiered dais draws the attention to the center of the round playing space.

Complimenting the slightly disheveled and once clearly grandiose looks of the set is the work of Lighting Designer Chris Allen. Working to create a pulse that drives the scene shifts, Allen uses darker more subdued blues in times of ominous foreboding; like moments when Oedipus blinded appears and addresses the audience, and brighter more harsh lights for moments of high-stakes emotions. Allen’s designs, in conjunction with Datz’s work, really sets the atmosphere for this twisted re-envisioned version of Antigone.

Sound Designer Andrew Porter ties these visual thematic elements together with his subtly crafted sound work. As the show opens the audience is treated to a tranquilly ominous rainfall with foreboding music that underscores the sound of the storm. An electric and almost inhuman sound echoes between scene changes, driving the pulse of the lights and the actions. Porter’s designs unify the visual aesthetic with unsettling enigmatic aural stimulation.

Costume Designer Jessica Ruth Baker follows in Datz’s footsteps using the shredded fabric to create a world of costumes that reflect the harsh reality of a Greek tragedy. Hash marks painted upon the cheeks, red sashes to signify royalty and subtly faded chain tattoos upon the faces, signifying the invisible slavery of fate, are all brilliant markers of Baker’s understanding of the text. Each person who grapples with fate is marked on their face by these faded chain tattoos, a constant reminder that no man’s life is their own in the hands of the gods.

Director Lynn Morton, using the five aforementioned texts, creates a brilliant new way of looking at Antigone. Morton draws attention not only to her plight, but to the family lineage that brought her to such a wretched end; going as far back as Jocasta’s damnation of Oedipus’ pushing curiosity. Interweaving these continual plot lines from Oedipus and Antigone into the story allows the audience to more fully grasp the way the tragedy has been building. Morton’s approach to the story jumps in time but is easy to follow as the characters distinctly shift in and out of their roles, creating these iconic Greek tragedians in a present fashion with an edgy modern feel.

The ensemble as a whole is quite strong, though individually the two males out-perform the three females in the cast when it comes to emotional expression, stage presence, and overall communication of their story. At times they fall victim to shouting or raising their voices to express larger emotions.

Rachel Nutter, who takes on the roles of Jocasta, Ismene, and Eurydice, is only featured briefly in a few of the flashing scenes but her most notable performance is her grief stricken collapse as Eurydice upon hearing the news of the death of Haimon. Nutter displays this grief as if a full body wave has hit her and knocked her back, the staggering gait that takes her behind the veil intense to watch. Her sweet compassion for her sister, when she plays Ismene, is quickly turned on its head and becomes a bitter biting anger, though this is done mostly at the top of her lungs and there are moments where we lose her words.

Antigone (Spencer Nelson) is presented in a rather simplistic light. Nelson drives the character with a harsh modern edge and irreverent sass that borders on obnoxious when she flippantly defends her decisions to Creon. Nelson adapts neither a feminine physicality nor a masculine one; an intriguing genderless choice which forces the character’s energy to be focused vocally. When shouting with both Ismene and Creon there is a clear burst of emotion in her voice, even if the words at time become lost in the volume.

A ruthless king, Creon (Hannah Fogler) has a well-directed rage that is ever present in her voice. Fogler starts the character off teetering on the edge, building the anger and turmoil from within and letting in loose in furious blasts of vocal outrage. Her body is physically tense, and her movements are rigid, but this suits the character who is in a perpetual state of fury. Fogler’s emotional breakdown toward the end of the production is quite impressive, collapsing into herself not only physically but vocally as well; a perfect juxtaposition to the manner in which she previously railed about the stage.

Vince Constantino crafts three distinct characters throughout the production, the most haunting of which is the prophet Teiresias.  With eyes that are permanently affixed skyward he embodies the blind seer with a disturbing presence that gives you chills when he stumps by, leaning heavily with shaky hands upon his staff. Constantino’s voice quakes subtly with the age of the character, as does his physicality, allowing the audience to see his years of experience without ever believing him to be weak. When he speaks he rarely if at all raises his voice but the vocal intensity that is laced into his words creates an emotional blaze that burns directly at Oedipus (Matthew Casella).

Antigone (Spencer Nelson). Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.
Antigone (Spencer Nelson). Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker Photography.

Casella, as the Fated King, gives a riveting rendition of angry Oedipus, vocally raging at Teiresias with the facial expressions to match. It is the polar opposite of his portrayal as blind Oedipus, a man humbled and ruined, distressed by his own circumstances into little more than a weary and broken figure that once lived a life of grandeur. Doubling as the messenger, Casella gives a stunning performance when trembling with terror in the face of Creon, his body shaking, his voice stumbling. The emotions that pour forth from him in that moment are pure and striking; a masterful command of a character scared stiff if ever there was one.

Remember well that there can be no happiness where there is not wisdom, and this show is indeed for the wise. A remarkable retelling, with all the original quotes in place, of ancient Greece’s darkest days; Antigone is the perfect way to end their Classics Resketched season.

Running Time: 90 minutes no intermission

Antigone plays through August 25, 2013 at Glass Mind Theatre at the EMP Collective— 307 West Baltimore Street, in Baltimore, MD. Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the door.

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Amanda Gunther is an actress, a writer, and loves the theatre. She graduated with her BFA in acting from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and spent two years studying abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales. Her time spent in Sydney taught her a lot about the performing arts, from Improv Comedy to performance art drama done completely in the dark. She loves theatre of all kinds, but loves musicals the best. When she’s not working, if she’s not at the theatre, you can usually find her reading a book, working on ideas for her own books, or just relaxing and taking in the sights and sounds of her Baltimore hometown. She loves to travel, exploring new venues for performing arts and other leisurely activities. Writing for the DCMetroTheaterArts as a Senior Writer gives her a chance to pursue her passion of the theatre and will broaden her horizons in the writer’s field.