OREM — Outdoor theatre is always a treat for me, and UVU’s current production of Antigone is no exception. The production is being performed by special request of UVU’s president, Matthew Holland, as part of a program designed to welcome and unify incoming freshmen. The production is the capstone of the multi-part program that also involved students reading the text over the summer and discussing it at special backyard reception at President Holland’s house. But even without participating in these other aspects of this unique program, I was able to thoroughly enjoy the performance.
I feel that when dealing with outdoor theatre there are a few major issues that a company must overcome, especially when you add in the element of Greek tragedy. Obviously, an outdoor theater is not going to have the best acoustics, so volume and diction become paramount. The cast of Antigone did a wonderful job of overcoming this issue by striking a good balance between being audible but not sacrificing the intimate acting moments that arise in the script.
The script itself offers a few challenges that must be overcome. Namely, the ancient Greeks liked to talk… a lot. Also, the language that is used is sometimes hard for a modern day audience to understand, similar to the confusion can occur during a performance of a Shakespearean piece. Director Scott M. Stringham did a great job of overcoming these issues by adding a contemporary acting style and showing some of the action that generally would have only been talked about. For example, most of the death scenes would have just be talked about in the Greek tradition, but Mr. Stringham chose to have these scenes play out in a sort of flashback to help add clarity and incorporate action into the play.
The acting also helped to add clarity and to keep the audience involved. The actors had a good grasp of the language and did a great job of communicating with the audience. I think one of the stand-out performances of the night was by Chase Dewitt Brown who was the chorus leader and served as a type of narrator for the audience. He was able to help the audience along with his clear portrayal and great communication. He acted as the guide that is quite often necessary when wrapped up in the language of a classical piece.
Another actor who really impressed me was Robbie X. Pierce who played the Watchman. His interpretation of the character included a lot of contemporary acting techniques and provided the audience with some much needed humor for the evening. There was never a time that I was confused with what he was saying and, even during his longer sections of dialogue, I was never bored.
However, I think the absolute best scene of the evening was the scene between old Tiresias the blind prophet (played by Kyle Oram) and Creon the ruler of Thebes (played by Jason Evans). Both actors were great at communicating which helped understanding of the scene. Each excelled at portraying the emotion of the scene and creating the sense of foreboding that is inherent in the text. But the best aspect of the scene was the use of the chorus. Another directorial choice made by Mr. Stringham was to utilize a set of UVU’s modern dancers as the traditional Greek chorus. This meant having the dancers recite the lines of the chorus in unison, as was customary, but also to remain on stage and provide emotional support via modern dance when not speaking. Never was this so well utilized as during the scene between the warning prophet and the arrogant ruler. The stage pictures were gorgeous and the dancers added an ethereal element to the speaking of prophecies. Mr. Oram was very good at making a clear distinction between the prophesying moments and the regular dialogue, which helped support the actions of the dancers, but also helped to highlight those prophecies, which then become integral to the rest of the plot.
My one confusion with the production would have to be with the concept presented in the costume and make-up design. The costumes were a mix of traditional Greek clothing and what seemed to be an almost Indian element with the addition of many ribbons, sashes, and bracelets. This was then highlighted with extremely stylized make-up that could almost be compared to Japanese Kabuki with white painted faces accented in reds, greens, and blues. It really looked quite good, but I was confused as to how it fit into the world of the play. I was unsure if it was trying to suggest that we were in a specific culture or whether this was one that had been specifically created for this production. I’m not saying that it was a bad choice, I was just unsure as to where it came from.
Overall, this was a great show. I highly recommend seeing it. There were some moments that weren’t quite as strong as others, but they were few and far between. This cast and crew should be commended for taking on such a difficult script and succeeding amidst the challenges presented by the outdoor venue. Go see this. It’s free, it’s good, and it’s an experience you won’t want to miss. Just don’t forget to bring a blanket like I did. It is October.