‘Antigone’ on the move

Marlin Agoub/Photography Intern

In the simplest terms, the enactment of drama on stage serves to create a world that the audience can collectively accept and react to. So, what would happen if the stage were to be taken away? What would be the case if, instead of relying on the physical theater for acoustics and setting, a show was to take its entire cast outside and drag the audience along as it moves from place to place? The roving production of “Antigone” takes on this unique, interesting approach, and it does so with a successful flair.

The UCI Drama adaption of Sophocles’ “Antigone,” directed by second-year acting M.F.A Sonya Cooke, offers audiences a new, modern perspective on a story normally known only to English majors and classical drama lovers. Much of the heavy verse that would cause people to run away in absolute terror has been cut, and the dialogue is easy to understand and the story easy to follow.

The play does take liberties, though, in presenting the tragedy. Whereas the original story focuses on Creon as the ruler of Thebes, UCI Drama’s adaption switches Creon’s role with that of his wife, Eurydices. Instead of a king of Thebes, Creon becomes a quiet, brooding character who kills himself over their son’s death.

Following the civil war between the sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynices, Eurydices takes the mantle as queen. The two brothers had died fighting, and Eurydices decides that while Eteocles will be honored, the body of the rebel Polynices will be left unburied to be picked at by carrion and unsanctified by the proper holy rites. Antigone, sister to the dead brothers, wants to bury Polynices’ body in defiance of Eurydices’ edict.

Laleh Khorsandi successfully portrays a defiant, strong-willed Antigone who takes on a very emphatic version of the “do it yourself” attitude as she unflinchingly argues with Eurydices about the morality of the edict and disowns her sister, Ismene (Abbey Howe). Khorsandi’s Antigone seems to grow in stature when she is caught trying to give her brother a proper burial. As she is led to her imprisonment, Antigone loudly voices her love for Polynices and reverence for the gods.

It is the character of Eurydice in this production that the story is framed around, and Iris Gonzales approaches her character with an interesting dynamic. Eurydices offers different aspects as a female ruler, and this is most evident in the clash between Eurydices and her son, Haemon (Chris Lanehart). Eurydices balances her proud, stubborn nature with the emotional edge of a mother, making her realization of her mistakes that much more biting at the end.

The four masked members of the chorus (Asha Iyer, Kelly Doran, Rachelle Clark and Sara Qahoush) provided energy and animation, commenting on the actions of the characters as well as leading the members of the audience to the different locations. The contrast between the chorus as commentators and ushers is emphatically sharp, as they go from singing, spirit-like creatures pulling and beckoning the audience along to eerie chanters speaking in unison.

The tagline on the playbill for “Antigone” reads, “A Tragedy En Foot.” The play begins in front of the Little Theater at Humanities Hall then makes its way through Aldrich Park, meandering from the rock garden to the Infinity Fountain at Rowland Hall, the courtyard between the Engineering Tower and ICS buildings, and eventually ending up between Langson Library and Gateway. It isn’t all on foot, as the audience is encouraged to sit on the grass or steps and watch the scenes unfold.

Despite all the background noise from planes passing overhead to the chatter of passers-by, the actors kept the audience engaged. This says something about their performances, as this production did not have the benefit of an indoor theater to keep the audience focused.

As the play moved from one location to another, it became apparent that the audience was physically participating in the exact same role it would have in an indoor theater: we traveled along with and were witnesses to the tragedy. This shorter, contemporary production of “Antigone” ends with a chilling message that hopes to reach us, repeated in unison by those who remained alive at the end: “The words of the proud will be paid in full with blows, which will teach us wisdom.”

Now if only those who provide our funding could gain some wisdom and not cut funding from the arts.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5