Bwog’s theatrical afternoon continues with Tony Gong’s review of the Classics Department’s production of Antigone.
Last night, I journeyed into Columbia classics undergraduates’ first performance of Antigone at the Minor Latham Playhouse in Milbank, buried deep within the Barnard’s campus. The mystical and labyrinthine trek was well-worth it—partly due to the unique theater experience that followed, and partly because Hewitt dining hall was pretty good that night.
Sophocles’ Antigone picks up where Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes ends, with brothers Polyneices and Eteocles dead, and their power-hungry uncle Kreon instated as king. Kind of like the end of Star Wars: Episode III. And, like the newly asthmatic Darth Vader, Kreon demerits all family and friendship for loyalty to the state by denying the dead Polyneices proper funeral rites for fighting against Thebes. Hence the drama begins, when Antigone, Polyneices’ sister, is caught trying to bury her brother, and ordered to death.
What’s uncommon about this rendition is that it attempts to remain consistent with most aspects of ancient Greek tragedy performance. No anachronistic language here—all dialogue is in Ancient Greek, with a projector screen flashing the English text onto a blue background. The orchestra members even have weird, Greek instruments with enigmatic names I have never heard before, like “bouzouki,” and “aulos” and “Cretan lute” and “violin.”
But despite the Greek dialogue, the characters are well-acted and emphatic, aiding the audience’s translation process. A standout performance comes from the blind prophet Tiresias (Lane Sell, GS ’09), whose dynamic monologue about gods, and like, arrogance, or something, is very memorable. And he walks into his scene with an excessively twisted walking stick that looks like it probably inhibits the walking process, so we know that he must be blind. Kreon (Vanya Visnjie), who is on stage most of the time, is appropriately stubborn and authoritative. His open chest tunic also reveals a lot of chest hair, which definitely did not make me feel inadequate and jealous.
Speaking of which, the costume designs reflect this Greek authenticity as well. All actors wear the eerie white masks we’ve all come to identify with ancient Greek performances and scary movies. The actors also wear light blue tunics that appeared to be stolen right from a hospital. An entire wing at St. Luke’s is probably sleeping naked this weekend.
The set, however, was disappointingly minimal. I read on Wikipedia before the performance that the play is notable for its elaborate setting inside the king’s palace. You can imagine my disappointment when the stage revealed five white boulders that looked like they belonged in the set of a Power Rangers episode. Although this actually started to get excited—perhaps it was a Power Rangers episode! What’s more is that the dim, moody blue lighting that rarely changed throughout the performance also created an usually romantic atmosphere. This resulted in several awkward interactions between me and my male friend, who had joined me last night. My advice for you is to attend the performance with someone you would feel comfortable putting your arm around, because you invariably will. Several times.
Antigone is a unique play that emphasized authentic ancient Greek aspects of drama. And while these authenticities do not necessarily make the performance easier to follow, or more enjoyable for that matter, it certainly grants its audience some major intellectual legitimacy. I know what a bouzouki sounds like, do YOU? Oh, you do? You mean it’s just kind of like a mandolin? Oh OK that’s cool.
Catch the remaining performance!
WHEN: Saturday Mar. 29, 8PM (should be about 80 minutes long)
WHERE: Minor Latham (118 Milbank)
HOW MUCH: $2 for students (you can get tickets on smarttix.com instead of at the door, but there is a $1.50 service charge)