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Antigone suffers from schizophrenic directing

ANTIGONE

Written by Sophocles.

Directed by Phoebe Wray.

Starring Jana Thompson

and Rogelio Chicas.

Boston Conservatory Theater,

Nov. 22, 8 pm.

By NIC KELMAN

THE BOSTON CONSERVATORY'S production of Antigone, Sophocles' final play of the Oedipus cycle, was more than slightly disjointed. The combination of direction, acting, set design and lighting failed to produce a synthesized whole. Some of these elements have been executed in a traditional, formalized style, true to the way Greek drama was originally conceived, but others were carried out with modern innovation. What is more, divisions of this type exist even within single elements of the play.

Director Phoebe Wray obviously spent considerable time working on the presentation of the chorus. According to the show's press release, Wray attempted to make the nine-person chorus both a group of Theban elders, as is called for in the script, and a group of Theban townspeople. She tried to achieve this effect by having all the chorus members carry masks throughout their appearance -- without the masks, they were townspeople; with the masks, were elders.

The distinction between elders and townspeople went largely unnoticed by the audience, as it was only explained in the press kit, not in the program. Still, this innovation, while not doing what it was designed to do, did build some other very interesting moments. The use of the masks -- apparently by coincidence, if one believed the director's statement of purpose -- fell precisely in time with the moments of greatest intensity in the text of the play. The masks did serve well to emphasize the tension already present in many moments of the play, as did Wray's superb use of synchronized motion in the chorus.

The problem with Wray was that she mixed this unusual choral form with a very standardized style of direction. The leads' gave a formal, methodological presentation, but Wray chose a modern interpretation for the chorus and its role in the production. This mismatched combination split the play into two different Antigones, which was a shame, as the quality of the two distinct parts was high in terms of the way Wray handled her actors and seemed to get their best out of them.

Antigone's set was very simple and traditional, being more or less bare. A sparse set is fine in itself, but once again, the traditional conflicted with the modern: The set was lit in a very elegant, radical fashion, not at all in the minimalistic and realistic style that such a set really requires.

These conflicts were not, however, what ultimately destroyed the production. The main problem with the play was the lead, Rogelio Chicas, as Creon. At the outset, he was entertaining and quite enthralling, having practiced his regal bearing enough to be a convincing King of Thebes. Unfortunately, this quality was all he possessed, and his lack of variety and range quickly became tiresome. At the play's tragic conclusion, his one-note performance made it impossible to empathize with his suffering.

The actors in supporting roles did well enough to carry events along. The sentry (Louis P. Farrell) and the messenger (Martin Phillips) were both worthy of mention. They gave fine performances and were very convincing in their roles. (Perhaps one of them might have been better cast as Creon.) Ross Neill, who made a wonderful, albeit short appearance as the seer Teiresias, also gave a noteworthy performance.

The Boston Conservatory's Antigone was, ultimately, a failure. Had Wray chosen a less schizophrenic directing style and a more talented actor for the vital role of Creon, the play could have been a success. Both of these points are too bad, because the talent was there to produce a good performance in all respects.