“Why does your sister have to be such a . . . bitch?” Cleon rhetorically asks Ismene after learning of her sister’s methods to overthrow his reign. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Shit!” yells a frustrated Haemon as he frantically searches around for the elusive Antigone in Ismene’s quarters. I’m not sure if an ancient Greek like Sophocles ever imagined Andy Boyd of Naked Theatre Company would riddle his play with so many dirty words, but I’m sure he’s digging it. Well, mostly digging it.
Frankly, Bitch: A Play About Antigone starts with an unfavorable decision. The play opens with shoddy documentary-esque video clips just to present a small taste of their collaborative creative process. Lines undergo close scrutiny, emotional deliveries are improved and scenes play out for practice. When you see them break character and have fun with the script, it’s impossible to prevent a grin from growing on your face.
Ultimately these videos seek to inform us of the company’s underlying“message” for their reimagining of Antigone. However, to throw out your best zingers on a pixelated screen just to perform them verbatim a few minutes later is an odd strategy, and leads to some awkward and reserved reactions. And isn’t the “message” something the audience is supposed to gather from the course of the play, anyway?
Despite this, the actors offer us a mixed bag of performances which range from so-so to impressively compelling. Dan Reno should be Haemon, the one who perpetually stresses over his right to rule over Thebes, but initially, flimsy deliveries and unconvincing shouts will strain your fragile immersion. Antigone, confidently played by Hannah Sweet, is recognized as some born-again terrorist bent on claiming the throne through hacking networks and blowing things up from hidden locations.
Rachael Jacobs as Ismene (or “Izzy,” as her ill-fated sister coins) dominates her scenes with a strong emotional presence, and her interplay with others makes for some sorrowfully tragic and genuinely hilarious segments.
Bitch: A Play About Antigone
by Andy Boyd
at Redrum – Fort Fringe
610 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets
Alongside modern profanity comes modern technology! Destructive language is only good for half the job, after all. Keyboards litter the set while cardboard boxes and white picture frames are used as props to respectively represent desks and TV screens. Media plays an integral role in the narrative drive of this play, as news reports of Antigone’s violent progression and goat sacrifices are convincingly enacted by Tamieka Chavis. Clever light and sound cues feign a bit of electrified life to these otherwise paper-based gadgets. Fusing guns and computer screens into a play created during a time where they were just starting to create stone streets aligns unexpectedly well.
It takes a while to wrap your head around what Bitch: A Play About Antigone has to offer. Eventually, there is a lot worth enjoying, but early-on it seems like a bitch to find.