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Tragedy Strikes at Little Kresge

Not Much to Cheer About in Shakespeare Ensemble’s ‘Antigone’

By Amy Lee

Staff Writer


MIT Shakespeare Ensemble

Kresge Little Theater

Written by Jean Anouilh

Directed by Elizabeth Wightman

Oct. 30 - Nov. 1 and Nov. 6-8, 8 p.m.

Oh Sophocles, is our society really so corrupt that Creon is now viewed as the hero in your play? Or was the MIT Shakespeare Ensemble’s untraditional rendition of Antigone just so bad that the one good actor became my savior? I hope the latter.

The modernized version of Antigone differed most obviously from convention in its new media spin. MITSE, for some reason, decided to incorporate video into Antigone by showing live feed of parts of the play on a backdrop screen. The video was supposed to correspond to what a family sitting on the side of the stage was watching on their TV. Thus, at random moments throughout the play, three reporters stood up front, their faces one-by-one projected onto the screen like a newscast.

Although I appreciate how difficult this must have been for the video crew, I wasn’t struck by any newfound deep meanings from this media twist. If anything, it was an annoying distraction. The video would have been better utilized if it had been used to show connections between the ancient tragedy and modern-day events. For example, every time Creon was making a speech, the video could have been a muted clip of President Bush talking.

Also, the role the family played in Antigone was confusing. Initially, one of the reporters introduced the family by saying they were watching the play on the TV. About halfway through Antigone, though, over-exaggerated mimed emotions appeared: the father points vigorously at the TV screen, the daughter sits in tears. It seemed more like they were a family from Thebes, watching a news feed of events going on in their town. After a while, the inflated facial expressions were too much for me, so I just ignored the family completely.

The rest of the play was just as disappointing. To be an excellent actor, one must take on the mindset of the character one is striving to be. Simply reading the lines in a different voice and putting on a costume won’t inspire an audience’s imagination. Unfortunately, I felt almost all the acting performances fit this description.

Antigone, performed by Lisa R. Messeri ’04, was the most frustrating. Her face, perpetually invaded by a look of confusion, never reflected the words coming out of her mouth. Every time she said something, I either wanted to lean over and mold her face into an expression or tell her that Botox wasn’t available to the ancient Greeks. Adding to this, her posture was unfailingly incorrect for a martyr character. Rebels don’t slump when they’re trying to make a defiant statement.

Max Goldman ’04, playing Creon, was a bright light in this flawed production. He truly personified the role of a manipulative tyrant, trying to restrain Antigone. Both his vocal inflections and his facial expressions were remarkably correct for the character of Creon. With a lingering smirk on his face, he convincingly feigned sympathy to Antigone; a few seconds later, Goldman’s face turned into that of an angry oppressor, his voice full of sneering contempt. In short, Goldman was the double espresso shot this play needed to keep itself going, or at least to keep me awake.

Although MITSE had a significantly unique interpretation on Antigone, they did manage to stick to one traditional point. The play was indeed a horrible tragedy.