Sea Change Theatre’s ‘Antigone’ Is Greek Tragedy Done Right (3.5 Stars)
“Antigone” Written by Sophocles; Directed by Jason Schaum; Associate Artistic Director, Staci Skiles Schaum. Produced by Sea Change Theatre Company at The Dane Street Church, 10 Dane St. Beverly, MA. Performances through March 15th.
“An enemy is an enemy – even dead.” -Sophocles
One of the injustices perpetrated on the classic works of ancient western civilization is to have them forced on us in high school by reading them like dry dusty tomes instead of viewing them as the early works of epic drama that they truly are. I was a grown man before I even began to appreciate how universal and full of life are classics such as Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’.
The folks at Sea Change Theatre boldly go about presenting Antigone as it should be. Perhaps much as it might have been performed in ancient Greek amphitheaters, with some slight modifications for our modern tastes. It makes for an inexpensive and entertaining night of drama, tears, fun and laughter as local, talented folks work their hearts out in front of an eclectic and appreciative audience at the Dane Street Church’s theatre, located in a wonderful section of Beverly, Mass. There’s exciting things happening on Dane Street for those who want to get in on it early in this, the second season for Sea Change Theatre Co.
The story of Antigone (for those who fell asleep in lit class) is actually the third chapter in the story of Oedipus and the country of Thebes. The first two works are “Oedipus Rex” and “Oedipus at Colonus”. This final end to the saga focuses on Antigone (played by Julia Short) the daughter of Oedipus, and King Kreon (played by Rick Boomer) the brother-in-law of Oedipus. Oedipus has died, but not before cursing both his sons, Eteocles and Polyneices who both lusted after his throne. Oedipus’s younger son Eteocles wrests control of Thebes from Polyneices, who in turn gathers an army and attacks his brother. In the end they fight a bloody battle and both are killed, leaving Kreon the ruler of Thebes.
Therein lies the drama of this play. Kreon announces that while Eteocles will be buried properly and with honors, Polyneices, the brother who dared raise an army against Thebes and is thus a traitor, will not be buried at all. His fate will be to lie, unburied and rotting in the field where he fell in battle. His sisters Antigone and Ismene (played with passion by Laura Liberge) are horrified at the idea of their beloved brother lying unburied, and in turn never being able to finish his journey to the underworld – the Greek version of resting in peace.
Will Antigone and Ismene be able to convince Kreon he has made a mistake? More importantly, can Kreon be convinced that even a great and strong king can change his mind when the change is for the sake of reason? Who is it that chooses to defy the king’s wishes and do what they believe is right, regardless of the consequences?
As is the hallmark of Greek tragedy, the main characters in this story must face up to their fates and make tough decisions about honor, loyalty and morality – the kind of timeless concerns we all face, regardless of the century in which we live.
For a local, small-budget production, the obvious effort of the actors and director to make this dialogue-laden play work so well is very impressive. There was ‘nary a misstep in the entire performance despite the daunting task of memorizing and delivering the tongue-twisting, Sophoclean verbiage. This is made all the more impressive by the fact that many of the actors are youngsters. In fact, in an effort to challenge the audience and take everyone out of their comfort zone, director Jason Schaum used a group of teenaged actors for the ever-present Greek chorus that helps move the story along. The five girls delivered their narrative in powerful well-synchronized voices as they walked among the strategically spaced seats in the audience. The chorus is made up of Caela Flanagan, Cheyenne Beauparlant, Heather Beauparlant, Natalia Grishin, and Natalie Good. It’s a credit to Schaum’s attention to detail that when the chorus was not narrating, they were seated around the theatre moving their hands and bodies in synchronicity with the action onstage.
There were many strong performances. Julia Short was wonderful and flawless as Antigone while resident Lou Reed look-alike Rick Boomer created a sympathetic King Kreon while still bringing steely strength and resolve to the role. Justin Linscott as the king’s son Haimon gave a particularly striking and solid performance. Greg Warwick was excellent as the spooky blind soothsayer, Teiresias, conjuring images of the evil Darth Sidious for all you Star Wars fans.
I feel lucky to live in a culture where groups of artistic and talented people so love the theatre that they will put in such enormous effort to produce wonderful productions like this. I look forward to Sea Change’s next production in May, of a genre rarely brought to the stage – a western comedy-drama entitled ‘Into the Territories’. Get out there and support them and enjoy great local theatre. For more info go to: http://www.seachangetheatre.com/