The Wilma is a theater known for being original and taking risks, and Antigone is no exception. As part of the larger Unburied Bodies project, this production of Sophocles’ classic Greek tragedy updates this play by incorporating contemporary issues. Antigone is the sequel to Oedipus: Oedipus has offed himself out of shame and left Plebes to its own devices. After the death of her brothers, Antigone begins a fight against the ruling. This is where the audience joins the story and the Wilma takes the reigns.
With the choreography, adaptation, stage, costume, and lighting design all attributed to him, Theodoros Terzopolous from Delphi’s Attis Theater commands this powerful piece with dramatic affluence. The general aesthetic of the show was stunning: from the geometric shapes of the stage analogous with the similar patterns created with actors bodies to the underscored lighting and simplistic clear-cut costumes. Terzopolous also utilizes not literal masks, but intelligently articulates tragedy through face shape and logically high stakes in the ensemble with allusion to the Greek classics.
This version of Antigone utilizes both an English translation by Marianne McDonald and the original Greek text. The Greek feels fresh to American ears and is especially unique when utilized by the Chorus, but the English supertitles take away the ability to keep eyes on the elaborate movement of the actors onstage. Some of the actual text was removed and supplemented by a narrator, which created an occasionally imbalanced plot or a slow narrative. However, the movement, the breathing, and the languages work together to create a specific world unlike any other for this play and partially augment that loss. The movement of this piece is so intricately developed and instinctively performed by the entire ensemble that one almost forgets the play underneath the movement in some of the scenes. Some of it did feel like unrelated movement for movement’s sake, but other times the movement was nothing short of captivating.
With a cast of six Philadelphians and three Greek actors, the full ensemble works cohesively to tell this story. The Greek chorus’ ability to move and speak as one unit is an enormous feat. Their constant metered breathing in conjunction with successful composition by Panayotis Velianitis becomes the intrinsic heartbeat of the show.
Each member separates from the pack to play their parts: Ross Beschler shines as one half of Teiresias, entertaining the audience with snark; Steven Rishard impresses with his First Messenger monologue and cyclical jerky movement across the entire stage.
Antonis Miriagos impresses by exhibiting the intense emotional journey of Creon, bearing his emotion load. Despite her namesake as the title, we don’t see much of Jennifer Kidwell as Antigone, though the repetitive full body movement with Sarah Gliko (Ismene), a brief but beautiful relationship, is formed.
With its impressive physicality, stunning visuals and classic Greek tragedy, The Wilma Antigone’s inherent theatricality is a unique experience compared to anything seen in Philadelphia yet this season.
Running Time: About 90 minutes, with no intermission.