Dark as the Sky: ‘Antigone’
By Community Reviewer Ruby O’Malley
On Saturday, September 24, my family and I went to go see Antigone at UHM’s Kennedy Theatre, and it was great. Antigone is a tragedy, originally written by the playwright Sophocles in 441 BC. It tells the story of a young girl and her mission to formally bury her traitorous brother, despite the king’s (her uncle) orders not to. She defies him repeatedly despite his pleas, forcing the king to act the way he thinks a king should act. This results in sorrow and bloodshed. Going into the show, I had no idea what to expect (as I often don’t; we tend to be taken to shows with no prior knowledge) and something with so much sadness and death surprised me. However, the production itself was stunning. The set was outside, which gave them a lot of freedom with the background, props, and stage space. I loved the show a lot.
To start off, the cast was fantastic. They had a large ensemble with a few background characters who added the illusion of the mass of people in the kingdom. The king, Creon (Donavan Oakleaf), was very imposing with his intense stares and loud, booming voice, but he conveyed the concerned and stubborn uncle very well. The actor playing Antigone (Anna Hamaguchi), portraying a teenager, did a good job of showing the childlike idealism and headstrong resistance that the character needs in order for the tragedy to occur. The other characters were just as good, and I found myself swept up in the story. Another thing that added a great deal to the production was the sound effects. It helped immerse us in Antigone’s universe, and I still remember the almost terrifyingly realistic bird sounds coming from the side of the stage.
The set by Rachel Filbeck was amazing. I loved how they used the centerpiece as a way to move around, and the whole ensemble climbed on it multiple times. The side pieces were largely symbolic and the spikes, which were angled towards the middle, helped direct the viewer’s attention to the center of the stage. The outdoor setting greatly enhanced the production because we were surrounded by natural sunlight and as the play got darker, so did the sky. It also opened up the possibility of using not-easily-cleaned-up props. In this case, the production made use of a sort of white dust. The play has a recurring theme of death and burial, so the white dust (which was thrown around intermittently throughout the show) could have been a symbolic representation of the characters being buried, especially in the last scenes. The imagery of the red paint after Antigone died left me gaping in astonishment.
Something I noticed about the beginning sequence: it reminded me of a musical. Antigone opened with two narrators, telling us what was going to happen, and eventually the entire ensemble joined in, warning us about the journeys ahead. The sequence was reminiscent of the opening act of a musical, like Pippin, where they sing about the story and clue you in. The reason these are similar is because these plays were the first musicals. The chorus/ensemble would sing or chant the legend. Also, the narrators, who were also the comic relief characters in a very serious musical, seemed to be controlling the story in a way. They played the brothers and the messengers, both of which played small but influential parts in the show.
All in all, I loved this production of Antigone, directed by Mark Branner. The cast was great and the set was stunning. Bravo.