Saturday, January 27, 2018

Antigone—Twilight Theater Company—N. Portland



The Infernal Machine

     This tragedy was written 3000 years ago by Sophocles but has been adapted by Lewis Galantiere and based on the modern dress play by Jean Anouilh.  It is directed by Tobias Andersen and is playing at their space, 7515 N. Brandon Ave., through February 11th.  For more information, go to their site at www.twilighttheatercompany.org

     I believe a word is in order first about the Nature of Tragedy.  It means that everything is fated, that man does not have any choices and the inevitable will happened no matter what else occurs.  And, within that, there is a certain ease, a tranquility, an uneasy acceptance knowing that your life is mapped out for you.  And the purpose then, one might ask?  To, perhaps, simply debate the issues for those observing who have choices, and to let them decide the villainy or heroics of such actions.  For a Tragedy, also, has an unsettling feeling that it is universal, that it will happen again and, possibly, that if situations like this are not resolved, it will repeat itself in our time.  For example, look at the state the world’s in now.

     To begin the action, a Chorus (Chris Murphy), is employed to comment on the story and narrate it to move the plot along.  It is the tale of the Establishment, Creon (Jim Butterfield), the current King of Thebes, rattling his saber to prove he has power over all.  And one of his new laws proclaims that the valiant soldiers who fought with him are to be buried with honors, but those from the opposing force will be left to rot in the sun and have their bones picked over by the vultures.
But this does not sit well with his niece, Antigone (Amy Lichtenstein), who is a rebel by nature, inheriting this trait from her father, Oedipus, since one of her brothers was of the opposing force.  Her sister, Ismene (Mikayla Albano) agrees in spirit but does not have the courage of action.  To complicated matters further, the Kings son, Haemon (Blaine Vincent), is in loved with Antigone and they are to be married.  Their Nurse/Nanny (Dorinda Toner) sympathizes with them but still views them as little girls.  Antigone’s plan is simple, she is going to bury her brother, even though the threat of death looms over this decision.

     Jason (John Armour), and his minions (Jason A. England and Rob Kimmelman), are charged with guarding the body, but the inevitable happens and she is arrested.  There is a long, fascinating discussion between uncle and niece, in which both reveal more to the story than most of the masses know, and both individuals have some solid points of view.  In the end, though, as mention, Fate rules, as a Messenger (Samuel Hawkins) announces the outcomes of their actions, and the King and his family, including his son and his wife, Eurydice (Bonnie Littleton), are victims as well.   And so he is left with his almost mute page (Micah Oesterrich Finke) to muse over the debris.
This is a powerful play and certainly has some relevance to today’s situation worldwide.  It is done as a “black-box” style of theatre, which relies only on the author’s words, the actors’/director’s vision and the audiences imagination to relay the story.  This is a difficult piece and, for the most part, is presented by actors with little professional experience.  But in the hands of a Master (Andersen), the performers will soar in their presentation, as they do here.  Andersen is an exceptional performer and director in everything he does and those that are lucky enough to work with his guiding hand can count themselves blessed. 

     Butterfield is a pro and he shines here, giving us a very conflicted King, steadfast in his resolve but still very human, looking for a way out of this dilemma.  Lichtenstein is a natural in a difficult role.  She plays it with a simple resolve and never wavers from her path/fate.  She definitely has the “right stuff” and could make a career of this.  Murphy, as our guide, has the look of a young Sydney Greenstreet (as Tobias revealed) or, more recently, the late actor, Victor Bruno.  He rivets you with his presence and commands attention when onstage.  He, too, should go far in this field.  The rest of the cast does well, also, under Andersen watchful eye.  Look for his production of “Rashomon,” perhaps in the Fall, another classic in his “bucket list” to direct.
I recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

--DJS