Wandering Theatre Company’s Antigone opened, as one might expect, with a chorus. The two chorus members (Clemmie Evans and Jenna Krasowski) are clear, haunting, and deliver their lines in-sync about a third of the time.
This uneven opening foreshadows the rest of the movement-based retelling of Sophocles’ classic Greek text. The artists clearly put forth big, creative ideas, but as a whole, the concepts and performances fail to create a single cohesive narrative.
According to the program, Antigone, directed by Natalie Vilamonte Zito, attests that “the retelling of this story asks us to reexamine our American past, our present, and our future in order to challenge the social injustices that are present in our American culture.” Although the folksy, quasi-Civil-War-era setting tries to place the story in a poignant, relatable moment in time, the disjointed artistic elements distract from larger social questions. Some elements call to mind the idyllic countryside of an America long gone, while others are distinctly contemporary; while intriguing on their own, the production lacks a single, continuous thread to bridge these various stylistic choices
This Antigone, translated by Jean Anouilh, is poetic and contemporary, and filters the complex political tragedy into a relatively straightforward plot. The text focuses on the titular character (fiercely portrayed by Emily Relva), who endangers her own life to give her brother a proper burial in the morally corrupt aftermath of a brutal civil war.
The ensemble-based staging plays with speed and physical exaggeration with occasional success. Between and during the story’s main sequence of events, performers run in slow motion or scurry at hyper-speed in an attempt to underscore the varying obstacles and pressures of this war-torn world. The result, however, is a chaotic sequence of performers who look like they’re either wading through mud or rushing to catch a train, which more often than not proves distracting instead of illuminating.
by Jean Anouilh
at Sprenger – Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
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Some performances shine through the onstage chaos. If their more dramatic scenes come across as somewhat heavy-handed, Antigone and Ismene (Hannah Wolff) sparkle during moments of sisterly bliss. Kalen Boyd is particularly compelling as Haemon, Antigone’s tragic lover, and Sue-Ellen Mandell puts forth an amusingly neurotic performance as the sisters’ lovable nurse.
Alex Perez, the leader of the Theban guards, is easily the performance stand-out. Although his boisterous performance at first seems to portray a simple, bumbling soldier, he soon digs past this exterior to reveal a complex, almost sympathetic character, easily the most truthful and compelling of the batch.
Although occasional moments of beauty and honesty rise to the surface, mostly thanks to the strength of the performers, Antigone’s epic journey drowns beneath a jumble of loud, unfocused storytelling devices—leaving its audience more confused about the story than inspired to challenge social injustices.