Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby
If the idea of going to see an ancient Greek tragedy seems slightly stodgy, even dull think again! The UM-Flint Department of Theatre and Dance launched an amazing production of Sophocles’ Antigone Friday night that flies in the face of those fears. Translated by Elizabeth Wyckoff, it’s the same ancient story but with a nod to now and a hip-hop beat that brings what was old to vibrant life today.
Director Janet Haley relates this production to the hit musical Hamilton and its “story about America then, told by America now”. Indeed, although the setting is ancient Greece, the street people using microphones to speak in rap and poetry slams while drumming and strumming may reverberate this story right back to its original impact.
Shannon Cody plays the title role with grit and conviction. A daughter of the former king Oedipus, she stands her ground as her principles are challenged over the forbidden burial of her brother. Her sister, Ismene (Rachel Keck) isn’t as stubborn but will ultimately stand by her sister as this family feud threatens the entire town.
Two alumni of UM-Flint Theatre are integral to this production. Because the story of Oedipus is important to the understanding of the strife here portrayed, Haley enlisted permission from 2012 grad Joshua Clark to use his opening Prologue Rap, which is a piece he wrote for the American Shakespeare Center’s production of this play, to bring the audience up to date. And playing King Creon, 2012 grad Vaughn Kelsey Davis exudes power and confidence as he forbids the burial of his nephew thus engendering both the wrath and horror of Antigone.
With nary a weak performer on the stage, there was still some difficulty understanding everything that was said due to occasional volume and diction problems. However, one young citizen chorus member, Student Activist David A. Guster, was clear and crisp in every delivery. Others of interest were Austin Kimbrell as the seer, Teiresias, Giovanni Moore III as A Freestyle Prophet and the two often comic Palace Guards, Leonardo Clark and Enrique Vargas.
Hannah Erdman’s scene design is impressive and provides a perfect playing space complete with various levels and even a running water stream. A two story house sits center stage and allows for interesting glimpses in the windows. A wall of graffiti is backdrop to a street band.
Doug Mueller’s lighting spans the set from intriguing ghostly visions in the sky to torch-like vases lighting corners.
Sound was a bit tricky Friday as power problems caused microphones to fail occasionally and music to come in with too much gusto. Designer Aaron Weeks did have his work cut out for him with some of this music live and some recorded.
In case it isn’t clear, this is a most intriguing treatment of a classical Greek play. Only 75 minutes long, it flies by with action happening at every turn in this message “from the Past told by People of the Present”.
Antigone continues at UM-Flint Theatre, 327 E. Kearsley St., Flint, MI 48502 Jan. 25-26 and Jan. 31-Feb. 2. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810.237.1530 or online at www.umflint.edu/theatre