Whether ancient Greece or modern megalopolises, women get a raw deal.
The classic Greek playwright Sophocles wrote about this human predicament enduringly in his Oedipus plays, which charted a family curse cruelly played out from generation to generation. One of them, Antigone, shows a young woman defying capricious laws and politics to do what is right—bury her brother according to rites and rituals that satisfy a higher calling.
Despite her nobility and honorable aims, Antigone is treated like an unruly child—vilified by King Creon and hidden away in a stone tomb in the hopes she’ll be a problem that just goes away. Yet Antigone makes her mark in myth and history—as a woman rising above her family curse and circumstances to stay true to her beliefs and responsibilities.
The meaning of Antigone’s story is reinterpreted by five female playwrights in The Antigone Project: A play in 5 parts that is currently getting its regional premiere in a visually rousing production at Rep Stage under the deft direction of Joseph Ritsch.
The five works riff on Antigone in the span of 80 minutes and the pieces vary in clarity and quality. Even if you think to yourself “What the heck is going on?” in spots, there is plenty to chew on thematically and emotionally throughout.
Likewise, the acting tends to be all over the place—running the gamut from majestic and moving to unpolished and just plain clunky. Some of the most affecting acting moments have nothing to do with the text and involve the transitions where each Antigone looks into each other’s faces as they hand off the next playlet to one another. Beautiful, still, pure.
Despite the inconsistencies, The Antigone Project is held together by Jim Fouchard’s lofty triumph of a set. A towering, terra-cotta backdrop looks vaguely like classical ruins or a bombed-out modern edifice. Lighting by Joseph Robert Walls creates moods and shadows, while Sarah Tundermann’s projections add movement and excitement.
Director Ritsch maintains a deliberate, ritualistic pace for the play that allows the stories to develop and take on distinct atmosphere. The first play, Karen Hartman’s “Hang Ten,” has a beachy, island vibe as serious Antigone (Shannon L. Graham) and her flirty sister Ismene (Katie Hileman) check out the surfer dudes while they are under surveillance by unseen authorities.
The mood is eerie and otherworldly in Chiori Muyagawa’s offeringed “Red Again”, which portrays Antigone (Kelly Renee Armstrong) and her fiancée Haemon (an excellent Jonathan Feuer) as twin suicides who try to make sense of their legacies and their fate in a tale that has echoes of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth.
February 17 – March 6
in the Horowitz Center
10901 Little Patuxent Parkway
Columbia, Maryland 21044
1 hour, 20 minutes, no intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
Website and Tickets
Whether it is World War I, ancient Greece or post 9/11 America, the play’s interpretations of Antigone reveal that while human tragedy seems never-ending and inevitable, one person can break the cycle by acting out of love and conscience.
Antigone Project: A play in 5 parts . Conceived by Chiori Miyagawa and Sabrina Peck . Written by Karen Hartman, Tanya Barfield, Caridad Svich, Lynn Nottage and Chiori Miyagawa . Director: Joseph W. Ritsch Cast: Kelly Renee Armstrong, Daniel Ayoola, Jonathan Feuer, Shannon L. Graham, Katie Hileman. Scenic Design: Jim Fouchard . Lighting Design: Joseph Robert Walls . Sound Design: William D’Eugenio . Costume Design: Julie Potter . Projections Design: Sarah Tundermann . Properties Design: Mollie Singer. Dramaturg: Lisa Wilde. Production Stage Manager: Jessica Skelton . Produced by Rep Stage. Reviewed by Jayne Blanchard.