Sunday, December 09, 2012

Antigone/Progeny

The ambitious Extant Arts Company recently presented two shows in rep: Sophocles' Antigone (translated by Sarah Sharp with Extant Artistic Director Greg Taubman) and Taubman's Progeny, a present-day take on Antigone focusing on a law that would require women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds before having abortions. Both plays were directed by Taubman and performed by the same group of actors.

Russell Jordan
Extant's Antigone was top-notch, hard-hitting, and smart. In addition, its sung, choreographed chorus interludes provided a taste of what Antigone might have been like in Ancient Greece and were considerably more entertaining than the usual chanting. Allison Brzezinski's choreography managed to seem both ancient and new, and Shane Parks' music (nicely played by violinist Teresa Lotz and guitarist Aden Ramsey and sung by the chorus) was attractive and accessible. (On the downside, it was sometimes hard to discern what the chorus was saying.)

Antigone's main strengths were Taubman's direction and the superb performances of Pëtra Denison as Antigone and Russell Jordan as Creon. They came across as fire and ice, with Denison's Antigone passionate and intense and Jordan's Creon so calmly sure of himself that he rarely bothered to raise his voice. Brandon Tyler Harris was touching as Haemon but less so as Ismene and Eurydice. I understand that having the main actors perform multiple roles reflects the ancient tradition, but I wish that women had played those roles.

Pëtra Denison
This Antigone built relentlessly to its shattering conclusion. I have never been so emotionally involved in a Greek tragedy, including various big-deal Broadway versions with big-deal Broadway and West End stars.

Progeny was considerably less successful, although not uninteresting. Taubman would have been better served by a director other than himself to help trim the script and fix the play's rhythms.

Progeny's performances were good but not great. Quinn Warren as the Antigone figure and Tony Neil as the Creon character both lacked the gravitas necessary for a tragedy. Russell Jordan, Pëtra Denison, and Brandon Tyler Harris were effective as the media chorus.

Antigone and Progeny together displayed Extant's many strengths and fewer weaknesses; I look forward to seeing more work by this company.

(press tix, second row on the aisle)

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